My Life’s Journey: Dreams Shattered and Redefined

It’s amazing how God brought me to where I am today. What I thought my current life was going to be in the past is nothing like where it is today. Though much of my past dreams and goals have been shattered, I have never been happier and more fulfilled. This is the journey God has brought me on and I believe He continues to do amazing things in my life, despite the obstacles and pain I have felt in my life. Here’s what I thought in the past, and how God and life’s circumstances have redefined these thoughts:

  1. When I was younger, I thought to be successful career-wise and making a lot of money was important, especially the former part. –So, during my childhood and teenage years, I wanted to be everything from an astronaut to a microbiologist.  So, I wanted to go to a prestigious college to make that happen. Obviously, none of that came to fruition.  I did go to college and have some jobs, but nothing even close to my childhood “dream jobs.” I’m not that successful (at least in my mind) career- wise and still have a long way to go, but what I have realized is that it doesn’t matter that much anymore. Sure, I still want very much to be successful and excel in my current job, but I will never be a doctor or a microbiologist.  However, God has been using me for a greater purpose than my own selfish desires.  And in that, I feel fulfilled and happy.
  2. When I was younger, I longed to be loved and accepted by my peers and others around me. —When I was growing up, I didn’t have a lot of close friends.  I often felt alone and excluded. I was often the last (or one of the last) to be picked for team activities at school.  In addition, I was often bullied and teased by my peers and manipulated by several people for their own selfish pleasures.  I felt worthless and unappreciated.  However, when I became a follower of Christ, that started, albeit slowly, to change for me.  I became a new creation!  (2 Corinthians 5:17) I have only realized (sadly enough) in the past month or so, that I didn’t have to worry about what other people thought of me. I don’t have to strive to be loved and accepted by others anymore because even if everyone I knew left and/or rejected me, I will always be loved and cared about by God. Sure, I still struggle with this concept sometimes, even today, but I feel more loved today than I did even ten years ago! Also, my past experiences of being bullied, teased, and rejected by my peers and others, have helped me to be more compassionate and caring of others around me who have gone through or are going through similar situations.  It has also helped me to persevere through relationships and never give up on people.
  3. When I was younger, I lived primarily for myself and my own desires.–If you met me when I was younger than a teenager, you would have not liked me very much because I was very selfish.  I wanted things done in my time and in my way. I drove people away because I took up so much emotional energy. God redefined my younger-me mindset in a big way because when I met Jesus and even more now, I have realized that life is not about me.  Of course, I still struggle with reverting back to my younger, self-centered mindset sometimes, but then God pricks my conscience and enables me to think of others again.  Now, I want to serve others wholeheartedly and show as many people as possible the love that God gave to me because it is not about me, it’s about Him!  Yes, I often fail at this, but God’s love urges me to try again and then this time succeed in what he has called me. With God’s help, I have made great strides in this area. I am more open to other people’s plans and desires than I was when I was younger, and it’s all to God’s glory and majesty working in my life.

This is just a sampling of my life’s journey. Though many of my past dreams have been shattered, I could not imagine what my life would be like right now. It’s so much more fulfilling than I could have ever dreamed or imagined, and I could have never guessed that God would be such a big part of my life like He is now, and for that I am eternally grateful.

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My Goals In Life

DISCLAIMER: This content is from a Christian perspective. However, people of all faiths and all walks of life can learn from this. Also, at the end,  I will talk about putting my goals into action, if you desire, for your own life. It will include resources for helping people who have been affected by Hurricane Harvey.  Though I am promoting these organizations in a way, I make NO money from them in any way shape or form. Just want to help YOU help others.

Who or what motivates you to live your life? Is your life marked by passion and drive? When the chips are down, so to speak, what is it that keeps you going? For many people, it is often their loved ones. Sometimes, it is their job and sense of accomplishment. Other times the motivation is wanting love and approval. What motivates me to keep going when life is as dark as a tornado whirling during a fierce and powerful storm is the love that God through His Son Jesus Christ gave and continues to give to me.

These following two goals are based off the love that God has given and continues to give to me. They are:

  1. To love God with all my mind, soul, and strength. (Matthew 22:36-38)
  2. To show others the love that God gave to me, so they too can experience love, joy, and peace in their lives that I have.

How will I go about accomplishing these goals? 

How I will meet goal #1

  1. Read and study His Word, the Bible, daily for at least 15-30 minutes a day.
  2. Pray daily to meet the challenges of the day, for at least 15 minutes a day. Also, I will try to be in constant communication with God, not just for 15 minutes!
  3. Attend a Bible-believing church. (I am attending a good church that lines up with my beliefs nicely).
  4. Focus my mind on God and His will for my life, and for the day, as much as possible, without getting distracted. (I am still working on this one. Sometimes it is a struggle. Correction: Every day it is a struggle not to get distracted by other things that don’t matter to this goal at all, but I will not quit trying.)
  5. Memorize His Word and apply it to my daily life.

How I will meet goal #2

  1. When I do something that offends another person, I will strive to quickly confess that to the other person and repent (i.e not do that offense action anymore) of my offense.
  2. When someone offends me, I will let the person know in private, in a gentle and humble manner, with all honesty and love.
  3. I will never give up on a relationship unless they give up on me.
  4. I will do my best to show kindness and care to other people.
  5. I will do my best not to let my anger at someone linger for more than a day.
  6. I will encourage others by sharing with them how God loves me, and by telling them how much I love and/or care for them.
  7. I will do my best to sacrifice my time and resources if someone is in need of them and doing so will help the other person.
  8. I will do my best not to show any pretense towards another but be my genuine self, even if it is sometimes flawed.

These are practical ways anyone can join me in not only keeping me accountable but also joining with me to show others true, unconditional love to the whole world, instead of hate. Ban the hate!:

  1. Forgive at least one person who has hurt you deeply. –There are several people who I have had a hard time forgiving, mostly because they did the same bad things over and over to me again, even though I had confronted them more than once about these issues.  However, I now realized that letting go of my bitterness and anger towards them has changed the way these people treat me, and in some ways, my relationships with these people have been restored!  Who is someone who deeply offended you? It could be someone from a church or temple. It could be a family member or a once-close friend. It could be a boss or a manager.  Yes, forgiveness is very difficult at times, and sometimes you can’t forgive everyone at once, but an unforgiving heart keeps you, not the offender, in an emotional hell-hole prison that traps you and robs you of the joy that life is meant to bring.  Also, the very act of forgiveness necessitates the offense. It does not dismiss it or excuse it. It acknowledges it but leaves the justice in capable hands, NOT yours.
  2. Be genuine.–Do not hide who you are. Yes, if someone has demonstrated that they are untrustworthy you may have to hide some things about you. However, as a general rule, do your best to be genuine. Be willing to be vulnerable and forthright about your struggles. You shouldn’t have to hide yourself to be truly loved.
  3. Be willing to care about and sacrifice for others.– One practical way one can do this, especially if you are spiritual, is to pray for those who are hurting and suffering. Pray about what you can do to help these people. These may be people at work, at your school, at your place of worship, at home, or in your community. Once you pray or think about what to do to help these people, do it! Recently, in a huge chunk of Texas and some of the Southeast part of the U.S, there has been a hurricane, Hurricane Harvey, that has swept through there and devastated many people’s lives, and destroyed many homes and businesses.  This storm is still ongoing as of this writing (written 8/27/2017). Here are some organizations that are helping these people through this:

These are my two major goals in life. This is what keeps me going, even in the hardest times. What are yours? What steps can YOU take to accomplish your life purposes? Please feel free to discuss here.

How To Be a Coffee Bean (or Change Your World)

This analogy/story is inspired by one of my managers at work who told us this following story (origin–unknown) to motivate us during a meeting we had:

One day, a mother wanted to teach her daughter a lesson, and so she told her daughter to buy these three ingredients: carrots, eggs and coffee beans. After the daughter bought these items, her mother told her to boil them and to tell her what happened.  So, after boiling these three items, this is what she told her mother: The carrots that were hard before they got boiled became soft after they were boiled. The eggs, which were previously soft, became hard, but the coffee beans stayed the same and permeated everything around them. 

Our manager told us not to be like the carrot which became soft under pressure (boiled). She told us not to be like the eggs, which hardened (became calloused) under pressure, but to be like the coffee beans that stayed the same under pressure and then permeated everything around them.  This concept, in Christian circles, is called “Being a Light,”  but can be applied to most anyone, regardless of belief. Here’s what I found are just three characteristics of people who positively change the world (i.e. “became a coffee bean”).

  1.  They invested in people.–These coffee bean-like people invested in others, not just themselves, or not just them and a few close family members and friends. This means they intentionally strove to positively interact with everyone around them.  This does not mean they succeed every time, but it also means they strive to make a positive impact on the majority they meet, not just a few people.  When I think of people like that, I think of all five of my faith heroes (for more on my faith heroes, see this post.), who inspired others to live their best life possible.  I think of my pastor, Pastor David Shoaf, who has served in the same church for over 40 years and has touched almost everyone he met there. I think of Chris* (NOT his real name) who makes sure people have time off work sometimes because he cares that people have families and lives outside the job and my manager Tom* (NOT his real name) who helps his workers succeed and strive for excellence every day.
  2. Be genuine.–What my faith heroes and coffee beans have in common are their genuineness. They both don’t change who they are because they are pressured to “fit in,” or because they “feel like it.” For instance, one of my faith heroes, Jesus Christ, did not change His purpose, mission, or personality just so that the Pharisees would like him. He always stayed true to His character. Also, another of my faith heroes, Rachel Scott, had lost all her friends due to her newfound faith in Christ. Even so, she was adamant about staying true to her belief and who she was, and not some tamed-down image of who her friends thought she should be. Never change who you are due to circumstances or people wanting to mold you into their own image of how you “should” be. Be true to yourself, while still willing to be open and teachable to change for the better, but change for your own reasons, not just another person’s.
  3. Stand Out.-Finally, and perhaps most importantly, in order to be a true world-changer or coffee bean, you have to stand out. Rachel Scott has been quoted in multiple sources as saying, ” I won’t be labeled as average.” In order to be a true coffee bean, you have to want to be better than average in your mentality and attitude towards life. That is, you can’t just blend in, be like everyone else, and/or do the minimum.  For instance, at work, one way I am trying to be a coffee bean is to work hard every day, and sometimes even volunteer to do extra work when I have the time and when needed, to help others. Moreover, I strive for excellence in my work, and not simply to get things done. Rachel Scott stood out by being kind to everyone around her, not just the people she looked up to or with who she got along well.  She even was kind to those boys who would later murder her, and also to those who were shunned, looked down upon, or made fun of by everyone else in her school or by society.

These are the three things everybody who is like a coffee bean have and examples of how one can imitate them. Coffee-bean like people always have a positive impact in this world, and sometimes it is very great! Resolve to be your best–Be a coffee bean today!

How To Die to Self

Dying to self is not an attractive or a popular concept in today’s culture. Even our advertisements cater against dying to self! Think about it. When was the last time an advertisement encouraged you to benefit someone else, without expectation of benefiting yourself also?  Obviously, in this context, dying to self does not mean commit suicide, which often has more to do with suffering from a mental illness or wanting to get out of misery or pain, rather than what I am speaking of here.

Dying to self is often a difficult and painful process, and can take years or even a lifetime to develop maturely.  The apostle Paul, a devout Christian, says in Philippians 3:7-8 (ESV), “But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake, I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ.” So, the concept of dying to self, at the minimum, involves counting everything as a loss, for the sake of another or others. 

“Why would anyone want to die to self?” you may be thinking.  Well, when you find out that thinking of yourself all or even most of the time is impeding your relationships with others and is making you not as joyful and free as you could be, then you realize that at least part of the problem may lie within.

While there is certainly time for self-care, dying to self involves self-sacrifice and devotion to helping others. Here’s what I learned (and am still learning) is involved with dying to self:

  1. Be intentionally kind to another person for their sake, not yours.–While you will probably feel good after doing something kind for someone else (We can’t really get away from that, nor should we.), don’t let that be the primary motivator in doing the kind thing. Let the kind action be done because we want to improve their lives, and make them happy and loved.
  2. Prefer another before yourself–This means thinking about how the other person feels and what they want, instead of just what you feel or want.  This is called empathy. Some people (like me) may have some trouble doing this, but with practice, everyone can get better. Another example of preferring another before yourself is letting someone go ahead of you in line, especially if they are in a hurry because you don’t want them to be late to wherever they have to go next.
  3. Lose Entitlement–A big barrier to dying to self for a lot of people, including me, is the sense of entitlement or “rights” we think we should get. This is a big thing, especially in the country where I live. I’m not saying having rights is a “bad” thing, but it can be idolatrous if we are not careful.  For example, at work, some people think that if they are full-time, they should always get 40 hours, no more, no less and that they have a right to not do more than they should.  If their rights are violated or intruded upon, they naturally get upset and complain. However, dying to self means, in a way, “losing our rights.” So, if I were in that example for work, I would not complain if they had to cut me to less than 40 hours if I am full-time, and if they want me to do extra work, I will do it, not just for my sake, but for the sake of the whole team at work.
  4. Lose pride.–Another huge barrier to dying to self is pride.  Pride, in this context, means arrogance. Arrogance means thinking that you are better than others. Losing pride means, for instance, not looking down upon people that are poorer than you, or who, for whatever reason, can’t or don’t work, just because you work. It also means being willing to give and receive help when needed, and not worrying about “saving face.”
  5. Be grateful and trust what you have is already and will always be enough.–Jealousy and ingratitude are also barriers to dying to self. In order to truly be able to die to self, you need to come to a place where you realize what you have is enough for that moment. Being thankful for what I have and realizing how many people have made a positive impact in my life, helps me in this area and ultimately leads me to die to self a little bit more.  Being thankful helps me realize how much I have and how privileged I am, and that fact compels me to share what I have with others, whether it is material things, my abilities, or my time. I also learned though there will always be people who have more than I do materially, or who are better people than me, that God made me unique for His purposes, and that I don’t need to compare myself to others.  I just need to serve them the best I can and be thankful for them being in my life so I can have the opportunity to make a positive impact in their lives.
  6. Be willing to sacrifice for others.–This means forgoing something for the good of another. For example, if a friend enjoys a movie you don’t really like, but he or she really doesn’t want to go alone, dying to self would involve offering to come with that friend to see that movie.  You would forgo your time and your preference, for that of your friend. NOTE: Going to the movie, but complaining through the whole thing or otherwise having a bad attitude, is not dying to self, but “playing the martyr,” which is the opposite of dying to self. Another theoretical example would be if your friend forgot to bring their lunch and has no money to buy one for themselves, either giving your lunch to them and fasting that meal, or sacrificing part of your earnings, and buying lunch for them so they won’t go hungry is dying to self.

As you can see, dying to self is very difficult and involves a new way of thinking.  Often times, I fail too. However, dying to self is a process and takes a long time to do well.  It is often when selfishness starts ruining our relationships and communities, that we really wake up and start thinking that dying to self might not be a bad idea.
As I said, dying to self is very difficult to do and takes time, but I believe we must strive to at least try to do this if we want to improve our relationships with others and be truly fulfilled in this life.

Top 5 Characteristics of People I Admire (and how to cultivate them)

Everyone has someone they admire, whether it be a famous celebrity, athlete, a loved one, or even an ordinary person touching them in an extraordinary way. For me, most of the people I most admire have most or all of these five characteristics in common. Here they are, and how to cultivate them for yourself:

  1. Humility– The people I admire most must possess at least some humility. Humility can be defined as, ” freedom from pride or arrogance,” at least according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary. (source: https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/humility). Ways we can (unfortunately) display pride or arrogance, and, by the way, are HUGE turnoffs for me, are a.) thinking you are better than everyone else  b.) Not admitting fault and/or blaming others when you make a mistake. This can be a moral mistake (i.e…sin) or any other type of mistake, and to a lesser extent c.) not being able to admit that you need help with something.  People I admire are free from that. They are free to make mistakes and not blame other people for them.  They possess a genuine humility rare in this day and age.  For example, one of the people I admire once accidentally offended some people, and immediately and formally apologized to them. This person never once blamed the offended party for “being too sensitive” or any other such nonsense.  This person owned their fault completely and totally, without a “poor-me” mentality.  C.S. Lewis aptly described humility as, “not thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less.” We can learn much from that quote on how to be more humble.  Truly humble people never brag about being humble, or nice, for that matter, or they would cease being humble! They just are, and demonstrate humility and/or kindness through their words and actions. So, to sum it up, truly humble people a.) Just are. b.) Don’t think they are better than anyone else. c.)Admit fault readily when they make a mistake. and d.) Can ask for help when they need it.
  2. Integrity-Another characteristic that people I admire possess is integrity, which can be defined as, ” adherence to moral and ethical principles; soundness of  moral character; honesty.” (source: http://www.dictionary.com/browse/integrity).  These people never lie to enhance their character or save their own skin, so to speak. When they say or promise to you that they will do something, they will do it without fail, and when they can’t they won’t promise you anything.  They are generally pillars of their communities, not because they are rich or important, but because they are morally and ethically sound people. If they are married, they are faithful to their spouses.  They are honest even if being so would cost them something.
  3. Caring/kindness-I put these two together, since they are so interrelated to each other, but another characteristic or characteristics that people I admire have is caring and kindness. Caring can be described as: displaying kindness and concern for others.(source: google.com) Because many of the people I admire most are humble and have great integrity, their caring and kindness for others extend more naturally.  One of the people I admire cared enough for me to tell me personally that they had to move, instead of just emailing me or letting me find out with their other friends.  Another person I admire cares enough about his subordinates to often thank them for their hard work and mean it too, and they hardly (if ever) yell at them, but are able to talk to them nicely even when under stress. Ways we can cultivate this quality in ourselves are a.) Pay attention to “the little things.” Watch your tone of voice and attitude towards people you encounter. Do you often act dismissively and invalidate people, or do you take the time to have a good attitude and minister to their needs too?  b.) Be intentional.  Is someone you know going through a rough time right now? Encourage them. Pray for them (if you believe in prayer).  Thank them for their good qualities. Let them know in some other way that you care about them and that they are not forgotten.  Do you know someone who no one else seems to notice or care about? Talk to them. Get to know them.  Buy them a meal, not for charity’s sake, but so they feel loved and important.
  4. Diligence-Most of the people I admire are not only humble, show integrity, and are caring and kind, but also show diligence. Diligence can be defined as: steady, earnest, and energetic effort : persevering application (source: https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/diligence). These people I admire are often successful in my eyes, not only because they are nice people, but also because I know they worked hard to get there.  They live life to the fullest. They don’t wait for someone else to do something for them if they can do it themselves. While these people are diligent, they don’t overdo it either. They know their limits, and so can be effective and diligent in more areas of their lives. They are not ones to give up when the going gets tough, but try again and again until they accomplish what they need to do. Practical ways we can show diligence is: 1) If you work, do it with all your energy or might. Do you work efficiently and the best you can.  Unless you are doing something else work-related, never let other people do the work you’re supposed to be doing yourself. This applies to students going to school too, and does not only have to include “paid” work, but unpaid work as well (i.e…household or other chores) .   2.) Have a purpose and a passion to work hard. Reward yourself when you work hard. That way you will always be motivated to do everything in life (not just a job) well.
  5. Affirming-Last, but certainly not least, the people I admire are affirming.  They are master validators of people.  They value not only people they admire most, but everyone else as well. According to Google, one of the ways affirming can be defined is, ” [to] offer (someone) emotional support or encouragement. ” (source:https://www.google.com/webhp?sourceid=chrome-instant&ion=1&espv=2&ie=UTF-8#q=affirming+definition). They always “shine” before people, because they always know how to bring out the very best in others.  Ways we can be more affirming is a.) To value others. See posts :https://placeinthisworld224.wordpress.com/2017/01/15/giving-value-to-others/ and https://placeinthisworld224.wordpress.com/2016/12/29/on-validation-and-invalidation/ for more information.  b.) Be supportive to others in their time of need. When someone is upset or sad, we can offer a listening ear. We can remind them that we do, in fact, care for them. We can make sure we have a soothing and/or encouraging tone of voice when we speak to others.   c.) We can look for good qualities in others, and speak about those, rather than gossip and/or complain about others. The people I admire most, while they sometimes do complain, mostly are very grateful and honoring to others, and when they see something good about someone they make sure to let the person who has that good quality know about it so that the person and others can cultivate that quality even more!

So, if you would like to be a person most admired, not only by me, but other people, I believe you should cultivate at least four of these five qualities.  No fallible human being I know, has these qualities down perfectly. (I know  myself don’t. ) However, we can all constantly learn from each other and these people, and strive to become better people and never give up learning to be better on this side of eternity.