Hope-Giver

 

written:  11/30/2018

Once I was lost and alone

Looking for hope and love

The true kind from up above

The kind that would never die

 

I was dealing with much pain

People caused me much hurt and strife

But you came into my life

And brought healing to my soul

 

You gave me true love and care

You gave me value and hope

When I was on my last rope

You are my great hope-giver

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Dying Well

I have been repeatedly reminded in these past few weeks that nothing on earth is going to stay the same or remain forever. To that end, I have also been reminded that one day I will pass from life on this earth, to life in eternity with God.  I have sensed in my heart that God has been whispering to me over and over again, “Patricia, you don’t have much time left.”  The following is the message I believe God is relaying to my heart, and also, I believe, God’s message to all of us, to live life so that we will die well:

I know no one wants to ponder their death. It all seems so depressing and final—but it doesn’t have to be.  Dying well, to me, does not mean having all the toys and grandeurs of this world. One can have that, and still not die well.  Dying well does not just mean being popular and having everyone love you.  To me, dying well means to have lived knowing you have fulfilled your purpose and that God will say to you when you come before Him, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

So, how does one fulfill his or her purpose? Well, first one needs to find out what it is!  I believe that my overarching purpose can be surmised in the Westminster Shorter Catechism, where it says, “The [purpose] of man is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever.” If you are a follower of Christ, that should be your purpose too. 

However, I think God gives us different assignments, if you will, to help us fulfill that purpose, through both our circumstances and the people He puts in our path.  For instance, despite the stresses that my day job brings, I believe He has and continues to use that job as a calling for me to minister to broken and hurting people around me and to strengthen my character.  In this job, I am learning, not only some marketable skills in my job, but also how to be more patient, kind, caring and at peace with life.  I have learned that anxiety gets me nowhere, but trusting God does.  When I cooperate with God in these lessons, I am much better able to fulfill His purposes for me.  When it is my time to depart this world, if I persevere in this and all other assignments He gives me to fulfill His purposes, then I would die well.  

Another example is my faith hero, Rachel Joy Scott. She became a Christian a few years before her death in April 1999, and God used people in her school, her church, and her job to strengthen and build her character and to be a dynamic example for those around her that would be recounted long after she had departed this earth.  Although Rachel died what many consider a tragic death, I think she died well, not because thousands of people came to her funeral, but because of the positive impact she had and continues to have in millions of people’s lives today because of how she had lived her life and fulfilled her God-given purpose.

I believe to truly die well, we must die to self. In fact, in Luke 9:23-24 (KJV), Jesus says, “ If any man should come after me, he must deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow me.  For whosoever will save his life shall lose it, but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it.”  Jesus is saying that in order to live, and, ultimately, die well, we have to be willing to give up our selfish desires, ambitions and hopes for the benefit of others.  I can attest to this fact in my own life. When I am thinking selfishly, I often find that I don’t get what I wanted anyway, and my life unravels before me. Not only that, people often lose respect for me, and I become an angry, resentful and bitter mess. However, when I humble myself and submit my desires and ambitions to God, I find that I am more at peace, no matter what my circumstances are, and things often go a lot more smoothly.  I also find the same is true for those around me.  Those around me who complain the most are often, and not just coincidentally, the same people who have not submitted their selfish desires and ambitions to God!  What a miserable way, not only to live, but to die! Many people think that when we die to self, we will live a miserable life and never get to do what we want to do. I won’t lie; sometimes I am tempted to believe this very lie!  However, in reality, the opposite is most often true.  When we are willing to sacrifice for others, we become more fulfilled in our God-given purpose and are more likely to be content with our lives, rather if we just lived for ourselves and our desires.

Another part of dying to self is being willing to serve others. Helping others not only encourages us to keep the focus off ourselves, it also makes us more content and fulfilled with our lives, because we sense we are making a positive contribution to this world. For instance, when I work to focus on making the customers satisfied and happy with our products and service, I find I feel much more confident and willing to serve them, rather than if I am focused on just checking something off my list. Dying well, means having died knowing that you served others the best you could, and were not just out for yourself.

In order to truly die well, I believe we must strive daily to fulfill our God-given purpose for this life, deny ourselves, and be willing to live to serve God and others with a whole heart.  As God has said in my heart, repeatedly, “You don’t have much time left.”  Yes, we don’t have as much time left as we may perceive in our minds, but we can use what is left to make sure we die well, and full of purpose.  

Lessons Learned in the Dark of Depression

Image by Enrique Meseguer from Pixabay

For over 25 years, I have gone in and out of the throes of depression. During my worst episodes, I seriously considered ending my life. Thankfully, every time I wanted to give up, God rescued me out of the pit of despair and helped me see His love and light. Even though I would have preferred to not go through the darkness for so long, and though I had wanted to give up so many times, I am thankful that God taught me so many valuable life lessons that I now strive to apply to my life:

Image by Myriam Zilles from Pixabay

One lesson I learned from going through depressive episodes is to be more open and genuine with others in expressing my true self. In the past, I was so afraid of what people would think of me, that I never told anyone for a long time about my struggles, past and present. Unfortunately, I got so used to hiding that when I finally decided needed help with my issues, some people thought I really didn’t have those issues! However, the longer I struggled, the more apparent it became to me that I needed to talk to someone about my issues, and more than likely, several people.

Then, I started to talk. I began opening up the layers of my pain in my past. What I realized is that many of the people I opened up to struggled with similar issues! Also, I didn’t get most of the judgment or condemnation I had feared, and those that judged me were often the same ones that God would later remove from my life anyway. When I started opening up and being vulnerable with others, not only did I forge stronger bonds with those around me, but I found that the pain I went through in my depression lessened, as I started to heal.

Another lesson I learned from going through depression is to be value my time– especially the good, depression-free times– more. When I am depressed, I can only see the wounds and ugliness of myself and life. I feel like I am in a long, dark tunnel with no end to it. However, when I am content with life and glance back at (but not dwell) on my depressive episodes, I realize how blessed I am! Reflecting back causes me to value and appreciate the good times more, because I see how far God has brought me from the darkness of the worst of my depressive episodes.

Image by mohamed Hassan from Pixabay

The most pertinent lesson that God has taught me from going through depression, in my mind, is that He had a purpose and a plan for allowing me to walk in the dark for so long. I have learned that God has been using my struggle with depression, and the past hurts that had exacerbated my depression, to help me minister to others with similar or even more complex issues than I ever had!  He has also used my struggle with depression to help me be more compassionate and caring towards others in pain, and in order to strengthen my character by tearing down the layers of selfishness and self-righteousness in my heart.

If anyone is struggling with depression or suicidal thoughts right now, know that God has a good purpose for all you have been through. We may never know what it is this side of the world, but God never wastes our pain.  Let this be our hope to never give up no matter what life brings us.

Image by brigachtal from Pixabay

Butterfly

You thought no one would want you

You thought you were hideous

That none would truly love you

That you were doomed forever

 

But then you saw a bright light

Someone who saw your beauty

And not just an ugly sight

Giving you true hope inside

 

Despite all you have gone through

You are a true butterfly

And I will always love you

And the beauty inside you

What I Learned About God’s Goodness This Month

Photo by Charles 🇵🇭 on Unsplash

     This month (August 2019, as of this writing) has been a busy and stressful month, but I am grateful for all God has done in my life during this time.  Right now, we are in the process of remodeling our countertops, since ours was outdated. We had waited for a month to get it done. During that time, my family and I were tempted to question if it would ever get done. We had to take out the kitchen sink, so we had to walk to the laundry room sink to cook or even wash our hands.  Everything in the drawers and cabinets also had to be taken out.

Right now, I hear the workers coming in and out of our house to set the VERY heavy countertops in our kitchen.  Thankfully, the weather is nice, and not excessively hot or cool, so opening the door outside is not a problem. Also, the workers would not get too exhausted, since it is not excessively humid or hot. 

Not only in the matter of the countertops, but also in other areas of my life, God has been working to show me that He is always good, even when we, or our circumstances, are not.  I learned that:

  1. God puts trials in our lives to grow us.
  2. God always provides for our needs.
  3. God always works things out for the good of those who love Him (Romans 8:28)

First of all, God puts trials in our lives to grow us.  I will be one of the first to admit; I have an aversion to trials, mostly because of anxiety and fear that things may turn out disastrous once I’m in the trial.  However, thinking about some of the trials that I have been in throughout my life, even this month, I have seen that most of them have helped me grow in my character and trust of God.  For instance, this week I worked at another location than the place I normally work.  Because I have a tendency to get lost in place where I’m not familiar, I had someone drive me. However, their car overheated on the way there.  Immediately in our minds, we were understandably (my co-worker more than me) stressed out and I even was thinking that I may not be able to get to the location at all! However, I tried to stay calm, while my co-worker asked for help.  Eventually, we were able to get to the location we were supposed to be working at after that.  Moreover, God provided someone else to drive me back to my regular workplace safely, and a friend to take my coworker to get his car towed and repaired.  Through this little trial, God taught me to trust Him to provide for me, and that I didn’t have to panic or get anxious during a trial.  Sometimes, I have even found that God allows trials in our lives to prepare us for the future. For instance, the experience with not having a kitchen sink for a month, and even working in another location, may be preparing me for something in my future or even to grow more versatile career-wise.

Second of all, I learned that God always provides for our needs. Even when we didn’t have a kitchen sink, God provided the laundry room sink so that we could wash our dishes, our hands, and cook (to get the water).  When I worked in the other location, I learned to be grateful that I am working where I am at now, and not to gripe about it, even if others around me may be.  I learned that where I’m working at now is really a decent place to work and is the right place for my personality, my giftedness, and the season of life I’m in right now, despite people around me quitting or encouraging me to quit.  When God provided a job for me at my current workplace location (On how I got my current job, click here.), He knew what He was doing, and His plan was good and perfect for me! 

Finally, God always works things out for the good of those who love Him.  Last week, I was a little bit concerned about having to work the whole department by myself this past Monday and Tuesday.  God knew I would be overwhelmed if I had to work those days in my normal location. So, an hour after I was clocked in on Monday and started doing freight, one of my managers asked, “Patricia, would you like to work at [name of other location]?

I said, “ I can’t drive far distances in locations I am not familiar with.  First of all, I don’t have GPS. I also get lost really easily when I have to drive to places where I’m not familiar with, but if there is someone that could drive me there and back, I could.”

My manager replied, “if [name of a co-worker] is willing to drive you, would you come?”

I replied, “Sure.”

So, I ended up working at the other location on Monday.  After I came back to my normal workplace location, one of my higher up managers wanted me to work at that same location I was in Monday, and I agreed.  My anxiety over having to work the entire area by myself on Monday, and especially Tuesday, melted away, because I didn’t really have to work the department at all!  Moreover, there were not too many customers those days, so the area wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be when I came back to work in my regular location on Wednesday with my co-worker Todd*.

This sure has been a busy and hectic week, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything, because God has taught me so much.  Though I knew intellectually that God is good, now I can see God’s hand and His goodness more clearly in my life.  May you see the goodness of God in your life as well!

*=name has been changed to protect the privacy of the individual mentioned.

Why I Have Hope Everyday

Image by Wokandapix from Pixabay

I wrote on April 9, 1999, when I was still in high school: “I wish I could be more […] effervescent (lively). I feel dead without being physically killed. I hope I don’t die emotionally, but I am dying. If I could only find that zest, that greatness life is supposed to hold. But where is it, at least in me?”  I had no hope. I was fine physically, but I was slowly dying inside. 

I’m thankful that I didn’t die or take my own life.  Though I didn’t know it on April 9, about one year later, I would find Hope. Hope that helped me through the storms, and come out on the other side being greeted with a beaming joy and confidence that I had only dreamed of years before. Hope has also given me drive to persevere, even when I thought I could never make it. Hope has redeemed relationships that I thought were forever shattered.  Hope has taken the junk in my life, and made it a treasure. 

Hope was, and always is, Jesus.

Hope has given me purpose to live.  Before I became a follower of Christ, I was living aimlessly, for myself. I had adequate material things, but I never really thought about blessing others with it.  I wanted to excel academically, but that was getting more and more difficult, and my limitations were becoming more apparent. 

With Jesus, I have realized that the world is so much bigger than me. With Jesus, I am able to partner with Him to share His great love and hope for a world that is looking for something bigger than the pain and the drudgery that life often brings.

Hope has given me a light at the end of the tunnel. I still struggle with depression occasionally, but now even in it, I have hope that God will bring good out of even that.  I have hope, because God’s strength and light will help me overcome a depressive episode.  I have hope because God has surrounded me with a group of people who love and care for me.

Hope has given me renewed confidence and joy that I had never known before.  Since I found Hope, He has provided me with several communities of believers who have had my back and who care for one another.  This support network I have had has helped me through some of the toughest times of my life, and even helped deliver me from some really bad situations.

Hope has provided me with my current job and some great managers, including several that believed in me enough to help me learn new things.  I want to give a shout out to my now-former manager Elizabeth* who believed in me enough to allow me to train to be a back-up cashier and learn some managerial tasks as well.  I want to give a shout out to my now former manager Chris* who took the chance and first hired me. 

Hope has provided me a great mentor, in J, who always believed in my abilities and was God’s message to me that He would use me to accomplish His great will in my life. 

Hope has provided me countless wonderful friends who have put up with my depressive episodes and have helped cheer me on. 

Hope has given me much hope for the future. Hope has given me freedom from the shackles that held me back in my past. 

The Necessity of Compassion at Work

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Recently, I have seen or witnessed more than my fair share of what happens when compassion is lacking or absent in the workplace. I saw a video of a person vandalizing company property because they had been bullied so much there. Now, there is even training in many companies of how to survive a workplace shooting! What has this world come to? And how can we do our part to make sure each associate and client in the workplace is treated with dignity and respect?

One of the ways we can do this is by showing compassion to others. According to Merriam- Webster.com, compassion can be defined as “ sympathetic consciousness of others’ distress to alleviate it.” (“Definition of Compassion, Merriam-Webster). In other words, compassion is having a heart to help and heal others through their pain and struggles.

Why we should show compassion:

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

The primary reason for us to show compassion is because Christ did. In Matt 9:36, when he was preaching in the cities to crowds, He “was moved with compassion on them, because they fainted, and were scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd.” In Matt 15:32, Jesus said to His disciples, “ I have compassion on the multitude,because they continue with me now three days, and have nothing to eat: and I will not send them away fasting, lest they faint in the way.” In each instance, Jesus wanted to provide for them, either or both physical or spiritual nourishment. Compassion is different from pity in that compassion strives for action, while pity is more passive and often takes a hint of condescension.

We should also show compassion for the sake of our humanity. When we regularly and intentionally show compassion to others, we become more caring, and thus, more human. Some people reason if they stop caring about others, they won’t get hurt. While that may have some truth to it, being completely apathetic breeds monsters. The results are people murdering and/ or abusing others “for fun” or just to suit some sadistic fantasy.  These people are so callous, they no longer have the capacity to truly care about anyone outside themselves.

Furthermore, we should show compassion for others to help save lives or at least avert violence in the workplace. In the example of a person being bullied by colleagues and even managers, what if instead they tried to ascribe dignity and compassion to them? What if instead of participating in workplace gossip, we focused instead on thanking those who work hard for us everyday? If someone is clearly distraught or upset, instead of ignoring or ridiculing them, we should try to comfort and be encouraging to them.  When we do this for the people who work with us, or for our clients, we can sometimes save their lives. Maybe if more people showed compassion, less troubled people would be tempted to wreak havoc at our jobs. Instead, they would have more motivation to do something positive with their lives because they know someone cares.

Last, but not least, compassion breeds productivity. For example, one of my now-former managers, *Elizabeth, knew I was very stressed one day, and instead of punishing me or getting upset at me, reiterated the qualities she admired in me, and encouraged me to not give up. Also, Elizabeth also allowed me to learn many things under her direction and didn’t give up on me when I didn’t get it right the first time. Her compassion for me when I was stressed and when no one else believed in me is a big part of what kept me going during tough times in our store.  Now when I’m stressed and remember what Elizabeth said to me, I feel much more motivated to persevere through the stress.

Ways to Demonstrate Compassion:

Some of the ways we should demonstrate compassion are:

  1. To encourage others who are going through a tough time.– When someone looks stressed or upset, be there to comfort and encourage them. For instance, if a co-worker is going through a divorce with their soon-to-be ex spouse, tell them they are not alone and help them through that with whatever you can.
  2. To pray for others.– Another way we can demonstrate compassion at work is to be willing to pray for others if they tell you of a need or concern and are open to prayer. Many people see our willingness to care enough to put their needs and concerns before the Lord as a refreshing and positive thing.
  3. To serve others.– I have had several coworkers who have struggled with physical health issues, so I have offered to help them with some of their tasks. This allows them to be more relaxed and thus heal faster, then if they had to work at the same frantic pace that may be expected of them when they are 100%. Another way one can help is to pick up some of their shifts if they anticipate not being able to work at all.
  4. To appreciate others’ good work– When you see someone doing a good job or if someone does something to help you, thank them. Write a note of encouragement and appreciation to the colleagues that have helped you the most, and the managers that do above and beyond what is expected of them.

As you can see, compassion goes a long way to improving morale and general workplace conditions. When we show compassion and care, we learn to be more Christlike; we avoid becoming callous monsters, we can help save lives, and help increase productivity, and thus profit for our company.

Source:

“Definition of Compassion.” (July 10, 2019). Retrieved from: https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/compassion .