community, credos, death, eternal matters, genuineness, goals, God, illness, joy, life, life lessons, pain, positivity, purpose

My Journey From Dark to Light

April 1999 was one of the darkest months of my life. Not only did my future faith hero, Rachel Joy Scott, die during this month, but I was ready to throw in the towel on my own life as well. In fact, in one of my journal entries, dated April 9 of that year, I had written: 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?

To the outside world, I had it easy, but inside I was crumbling at the seams. Not only was my academic load at school getting heavier and more pressured, but I also had to deal with an abusive teacher that nearly killed my soul. Moreover, I felt alienated from my family and felt that they couldn’t relate to my problems, and I had few friends, and theydidn’t know me well enough to really delve into the pain I held deep inside. Feelings of insecurity, hopelessness and overwhelm. I never imagined that I would ever make anything out of my life, as my verbally abusive teacher had claimed in so many words to me. I had little hope that my circumstances would ever improve or that anything would be or could be any different.

But when Jesus rescued me from the pit of despair and disillusionment the next year, He would change my life forever. I would find that zest life was supposed to hold, but it wasn’t in me. It was in Him!

How did Jesus change my life? How did He help me? Well, as the Anne Wilson song goes, “Let me tell you about my Jesus” and how He changed me.

Nearly twenty one years later, I sit in my room, and despite back pain, I am content with my life. Jesus has brought many supportive people into my life who have been there for me through the ups and downs of my life recently. I do want my physical pain to end and to be the end of all pain and suffering in this world, not only for me, but for all those around me. However, I know and trust that Jesus is with me through it and that He will give me the strength I need to persevere and to live for His glory.

Recently, my former pastor wrote me something that I thought was very wise and gives me hope in trials: Remember as believers our suicide is dying for self and living for Christ. Why not consider yourself dead and obey God?

So here I am, twenty one years later, still dealing with physical pain and in the grips of pandemic protocol, while Jesus is stripping away the selfish, insecure, overwhelmed, feeling-hopeless me, into a bright light that shines to the world for Him.

Jesus can change anyone’s life. Even if you feel that your circumstances will never change, remember how God entered into my life twenty years ago and transformed my life forever. He can do the same for you!

If you or someone you love is feeling hopeless or suicidal, please call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at: 800-273-8255. There IS hope when you are alive,. and there is help out there!

credos, death, errors, eternal matters, forgiveness, inspiration, life, life lessons, peace, positivity, purpose, suffering, truth

What I am Learning About Letting Go

originally written: September 7, 2018

Edited: April 25, 2021

Dedicated to my friend Alex, who taught me how to let go of all that holds me back and to love freely

I have found that as I go through life, I have not been able to do everything that I wanted, say everything I have wanted to my loved ones, or even see everyone I have wanted to see at certain times in my life.  I had to learn to let go of these expectations and desires. In fact, my pastor said, to a mostly younger audience, something like, “Don’t wait until you’re old to let go of things. Do it now while you are still young.” He also explained that as one ages, that one has to let go of more things, until things, both literal and figurative, fall out of their grasp. The three main areas I am learning and/or have learned to let go include: a.) past hurts and offenses.  b) my possessions   c.) my expectations, with c , being the toughest for me to release.

When I was even a decade younger, I had the most difficult time letting go of grudges.  I would hold on to internal anger for years, if I deemed the offense serious enough to merit that much wrath.  Every time I would see the person or person that hurt me, I had a mixture of terror and disgust. This grudge-holding greatly impaired my ability to fully be myself even around my closest friends. I was afraid that they, too, would hurt me, like my offender did. However, about a year and a half ago, I was able to finally let go of the grudges I had against several people. I remember that my grudge against one person was so bad, that I thought of how angry and hurt I was, even in church! The anger was so intense; I couldn’t concentrate on anything else. The grudge I had against them became all-consuming.  When I finally saw the light and let go of my grudge, I found that I was able to feel compassion and even love for them. I realized I didn’t want to die holding a grudge against anyone. I wish I had let go of my grudges earlier, because I would have been a much easier person to be around.  I would have become less bitter and less angry. I want to be able to love freely without a barrier between anyone else and me.

I have also been learning how to let go of some of my possessions. One of my friends has had to let go of almost everything he once owned or stewarded, including things he treasured. However, in letting go of these things, he has learned that he is able to love more freely. Through him, and what he has given me, I have learned that it is truly more blessed to give than to receive! Also, over time, certain things that I have had in my possession have either broken or gotten old.  I have also  learned to let go of certain material possessions because I know someone else needed it more than I did.  In my sophomore year of high school, I remember getting really upset because someone had stolen my yearbook with people already having signed it! I recently gave my dad my old mp3 player because he needed one for our last vacation.  Although that one is better than the one I have now, I don’t have much regret because I know that mp3 player will bless my dad.  Over the years, through church and my jobs, I have learned the value of generosity and sharing, and that it is not good to hold on to “stuff” too tightly.  One of the congregants in my church had described the process of letting go of stuff in this analogy:

Everything we own is on a big conveyor belt—our cars, our televisions, our houses, our food, etc. We are also on the conveyor belt enjoying our stuff. The conveyor belt is moving very slowly. In fact, it is moving so slowly, you don’t even realize it’s moving.  But then, at the very end of the conveyor belt is a dumpster. Everything we own is ultimately going to be put in the dumpster—to be thrown away.  Then, we get off the conveyor belt. The ‘getting off’ part signifies our passing from the earth.

The last thing that I am learning to let go (and still struggle with releasing) is my expectations.  I absolutely hate it when circumstances turn out worse than I expect! For instance, I expect a day at work to be easy, but then it turns out to be a really stressful one.  I tend to get upset at God and everyone else when that happens.  One thing that I used to get really upset about is when I expect traffic to be smooth, but it turns out to be very jammed.  However, when I went to where my relatives lived, I had to deal with consistently jammed traffic almost every day I was there. This situation helped me to let go of my expectation that traffic always be smooth every time I wanted to go somewhere, and also appreciate the relatively good traffic system here! Yesterday, I expected to be able to buy a book I needed for a class/bible study I’m taking at church. However, since my pastor (who was substituting for the pastor and teacher of this class/bible study) couldn’t find the books that the teacher had ordered, I will have to wait until at least Sunday to be able to get them. At first I admit I was a bit annoyed, but I quickly was able to enjoy and learn from my pastor without really worrying about the book.  I learned that sometimes I have to adjust and make the best of the situation at hand, and not get upset and complain that things should be different. I also recently learned that even through these tough situations, God is still there for me and will give me the grace to handle these situations in a godly manner. 

Everyone has to let go of, at least, some things in life.  Even though we may not be able to do everything we want, say everything we want to say, or even see our loved ones and friends sometimes, we still can be content in our circumstances by letting go of the expectation that we have to get what we want when we want it.  In letting go, I am realizing more and more, that there is a freedom in just letting things be.  What do you need to let go of today? What are some things that you struggle or have struggled with letting go? Feel free to discuss in comments.

community, death, eternal matters, illness, life, life lessons, pain, purpose, stories, suffering, thankfulness, work

What I Learned During My Past Illness-Revised Edition

 

2020 has brought much chaos and uncertainty in this country. Many people have gotten sick, and some have even died from COVID-19.  Prejudice and hate have become more widespread.   It’s easy to lose hope and fall into despair because of these events.  However, for me, today symbolizes great hope for my life, and I hope will inspire others to find joy and gratitude in their lives as well.   Exactly six years ago, had it not been for God ‘s intervention in the events of my life, I may have not been here to experience the blessings I cherish today.   Everyone that I have met after June 14, 2014, is a testament to this fact.

In the beginning of June 2014, when I was working at my previous job, I suddenly had intense sharp pains in my back and side. My family and I thought they were just muscle pains from lifting heavy things. My job involved some heavy lifting, and if any of you have met me in person, you know that I am quite small physically. However, I knew I had more serious health issues, when one Friday, I got home from work and started to have diarrhea, chills, and fever, accompanied with the side and back pain. I knew I was in trouble the next day when I started to vomit blood. At this point, I had already tried many over-the-counter medications and other relief agents, but none of them worked. I knew had to call off work that day and go to the emergency room (ER) as soon as I could!

 

Going to the ER

When I went to the ER, after many hours and many tests, and even an ultrasound, the doctors/nurses/surgeons/technicians discover two main things: 1) My gall bladder was inflamed and twice the size it should have been! 2.) I had several gall stones! Surgery to remove my gall bladder was scheduled the next day. I couldn’t sleep at all the previous night because of the stomach pains and diarrhea that occurred about every two hours. However, by the time I had the surgery, I was exhausted. The surgery couldn’t come soon enough!

 

Just before surgery, they gave me medications to induce sleep, and I was out in about two minutes. I woke up a couple of hours later, my body shaking a little. However, my body quickly calmed down with medication.  A couple hours after surgery, I ate some soft foods, and when it was determined that my food was starting to digest properly again, I was able to go home that very night.

Recovery

I had trouble walking at a normal pace for the first few days after surgery, and I had trouble keeping food down. However, after about a week or so, I was basically fine. At work, under doctors’ orders, I was not allowed to lift more than 5-10 pounds (about a gallon of milk) for a month after surgery.  However, I did get a point (point=punishment, closer to getting fired) for calling off to go the ER the day I went.

During this ordeal, I learned several things about life and how to deal with things:

If you experience unusual or sudden pain, take it seriously. Go get it checked out immediately! –I was relating this story to a friend of mine who met me only years after my surgery, and she said to me, ” You could have died, especially if your gall bladder had burst!” Luckily for me, it hadn’t, and I was able to get it treated just in time. So, if you experience any unusual or sudden symptoms of pain or other signs of illness, it’s best to get it fixed ASAP. Your life may depend on it!

Your pain won’t last forever– Whether you are faced with a minor illness or a life-threatening one, know the pain you are feeling now probably won’t last forever. It often feels that way, and your feelings should be acknowledged, both by yourself and others. However, try not to despair like I had after surgery. During my recovery, I was mostly confined to my house for a week, and couldn’t enjoy many things I wanted to do. So, I became very depressed and despondent. Even my daydreams were full of depressing content!  However, this did not last long. A week later, I was able to return to work and the pain eventually subsided.  Even if your pain or recovery lasts longer, don’t lose hope of things getting better. Keep on persevering even if you feel like giving up. This shows your strength and endurance not only to people around you, but also yourself. It does get better.

Your health is WAY more important than your job– I was working in pain for the two weeks before I called off to go the ER, and I had to call off that day, because if I hadn’t, I could very well have not made it out alive, and never been able to enjoy any of the blessings that I have today! It is true that I had to suffer the consequences of having called off that one day (They fortunately gave me authorized sick leave for the other week I was off). However, it was much less than if I had to physically die, never to enjoy or see life’s fruits again!

You’re stronger than you think– I always thought I was not only weak emotionally, but physically as well. However, when I was sick, I realized the opposite. I was surprised and humbled that I was able to work 2 weeks with an enlarged gallbladder and gall stones in my body! Also, I believe God gave me the strength to survive this ordeal and make it out alive, and this is a testament to His grace and love for me.  When you go through trials, I believe many of you will find out similarly as well. You are stronger than you may think you are!

The most important thing that I have learned about having been seriously ill was to appreciate what God has blessed you with in life.  Yes, I periodically forget this lesson, but when I contemplate what I went through six years ago, I realize how blessed I am to be with the people I am with now.  I realize that what God has provided me can be taken away from me at any moment, and that I should cherish them before I come to the day where I can no longer enjoy them anymore.

If you have the unfortunate experience of being sick or having a long-term illness, take it seriously. However, realize that this pain probably won’t last forever. Either you will go into eternity or you will get better.  Focus on the relationships you deem the most important. For me, it’s God, family, and friends, in that order, and remember if you are able to persevere, you will come out of this stronger.

 

caring, community, credos, death, eternal matters, family, friends, God, illness, joy, life, life lessons, love, pain, positivity, purpose, stories, suffering, truth

My Journey to the Light: Lessons Learned in the Dark

Also appeared in Persevering Hope, October 2019.

DISCLAIMER: Triggers for mention of suicide.

 On April 9, 1999, I had penned these words, ““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?”  Though I had been already battling depression for over five years at that point, that month was one of the lowest for me.   I had few, if any, friends, and I felt those closest to me could not relate with the emotional anguish and sickness that I was going through.  School was very stressful for me, as I endured a difficult class with an even more difficult teacher, who was verbally abusive to me and others.  Thankfully, God, in His mercy and grace, met me where I was at, a little over a year later, and did not allow me to give up on myself or on life.

I continued struggling through depression through my college years, and even still struggle occasionally now. However, I can attest that things have been much better now than they were that April day, twenty years ago!  In the deep darkness of my battle, I have learned so much that has enabled me to help encourage others who may feel that they are in the deep pit of despair and hopelessness and who are close to the end of their ropes.  Here are some of the lessons that I learned along this journey from the darkness to the light:

  1. Never give up! There is always hope when you are alive. Always! —I have wanted to give up more times than I could count, but God, in His sovereignty and love, never let me get that far.  I remember having symptoms of depression since I was ten years old.  When you are battling something that seems chronic or suffering for a long time, it is very tempting to give up on life and on God. However, perseverance is always worth it in the end.  For instance, when I was the most depressed, I thought no one would understand or even care about what I was going through. I hid the pain and the fears of having been bullied and rejected by some peers when I was growing up, and thought if I just tried to forget about it, the pain would eventually go away. However, when it manifested in increasing discouragement and an insatiable hunger for the desire to be accepted and love, and deep despair when my desires were not met, I thought more and more about ending my life.  Thankfully, God eventually took a hold of my life, and I began to see the purpose of my life. I also began to be increasingly motivated to spread God’s love to others.  Never would have thought then, that I would be surrounded by so many loving and supportive family and friends that I have today. I am truly blessed.  Had I taken my own life then, I would have never saw the light God had prepared for me today.
  2. Be compassionate and caring to those who are in pain, either and both physical and emotional. —I wish the people in my life now were there when I was struggling to see my value in this world and if there was any hope left in my life.  I find that when I am able and willing to even speak a word of encouragement to those who are stressed out at work, that their countenance begins to spark and brings them hope. When you see someone visibly upset and in pain, never stare judgmentally at them, but try to comfort them and offer them words of encouragement.  Nothing irritates me more than those judgmental, cold stares and comments from people when I am upset! I’m sure that upsets others in pain as well. When you take the time to care for and encourage those in pain, you bring them the hope and love that they have needed all along. Yes, sometimes caring for people is hard work, but you can possibly save a life when you take the time and effort for them. It is also so worth it!
  3. I learned that there was a purpose to my pain. — I have to admit—I have an intense phobia of suffering. Not only do I hate when I suffer, but I also detest when my loved ones and friends have to suffer as well.  However, when I am able to see the big picture of why God allowed me to go through the struggles and battles of depression and anxiety, I see that He was shaping my purpose to be able to help others who needed hope as well.  Had I not struggled with depression, I would not be able to relate to, on more than a superficial level, with the intense struggles that the people around me have had to go through. This truth is also emphasized in 2 Corinthians 1:3-5 (KJV), where it says, “Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God.” So, when we go through trials, God will comfort us, both so we can endure the trial successfully, and for us to be able to then comfort others.

So, as I continue to apply and review the lessons that I learned in the dark and afterwards, I taste and see that the Lord is good.  Because God did not allow me to give up, I am able to see the bountiful blessings that He has given me, the opportunities He has given me to care for others who are in need of hope, and I learned that I have a calling in life that required me to go through some pain in order to be able to fulfill it.  Do you feel aimless or in despair?  There is purpose to your life, and God can use you to help others in their pain if you don’t give up.  There is always hope when you are alive— and my journey to the Light is a testament to that fact!

caring, community, credos, death, eternal matters, family, friends, God, heroes, illness, life, life lessons, love, pain, purpose, stories, suffering, thankfulness, truth

Keep on Fighting

The s-word.    It carries more judgment, stigma, and heartache than any other word in the English language.  Yet it affects more people than we care to realize or notice, but we dare not talk about it.  According to the National Institute of Mental Health in the U.S, in 2017, a whopping 9.8 million people have had serious thoughts about wanting to commit suicide. 

I can relate to those 9.8 million people.  Having struggled with depression for over half a century, I have had those same thoughts of suicide.  However, because of Jesus, He has pulled me through every one of those episodes and has never given up on me. Additionally, Jesus has provided me with a great support system that will listen to and help me through whenever I feel this way, without judgment or condemnation. 

Unfortunately, not everyone struggling right now has an adequate or a good support system. The good news is that, we can strive to be a support to at least some of those around us who are struggling right now. The good news is that if you are struggling right now, there are resources and people who want to encourage you and give you the hope and encouragement I got through Jesus and my support system as well.  I would also like to share some things that my support of family and friends have collectively taught and reiterated to me over the years when I feel like life is just too much:

You are a survivor!

Like me, you may have encountered people that have betrayed and abused you.  But, then, Jesus will give you strength to survive them or He will take them out of your life.  Keep on fighting!

Like me, you may feel that your efforts to succeed in life are never enough, and that you always fall short.  Don’t worry. Jesus will provide the strength you need to truly succeed—maybe not as the rest of the world sees “success,” but more importantly, how He sees success. Keep on fighting!

Like me, you may feel sometimes that no one truly cares for you, or really knows you.  But, then, Jesus brings people into your life that will prove you wrong.  So, keep on fighting!

Like me, you may feel disconnected from society or that you don’t belong anywhere.  Then, Jesus will provide His Church and/or those around you to remind you that you do impact their live and that you do share a part of their heart. Keep on fighting!

Whatever you are going through and wherever you are in life, don’t give up! I almost did, but I am glad that Jesus didn’t allow me to end it all, because I never would have known the blessing of redemption and love!

You are a survivor! Keep on fighting!

Sources:

https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics/suicide.shtml#part_154973

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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.  

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Saving Grace

written on:  9/30/2018

 

I watched you die inside

Tears fell from my one heart

As I watched you suffer

And your life got rougher

 

Don’t you know I love you?

How much I care for you?

You have been seeking love

A love that is most true

 

People have lied to you

They have abandoned you

But I’ll always be there

And give you so much care

 

I will always be true

To you, for all of all time

I will never hurt you

And I want to save you

 

Save you from all the lies

Save you from the empty pain

Save you from much disdain

Giving life in your soul

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Hope -a poem

-to everyone going through pain and hurt right now

When everything falls apart

When things start to unravel

When you are on your last rope

I still see a glimmer of hope

 

Because one day I almost died

In me, there was almost no fight

I almost missed that glorious light

But that bright light filled my soul

 

The light can also bring you much hope

If you let the brightness fill your soul

You will be able to see much love

And again your life will be made whole

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On Loss and Love: Lessons Learned 

-in memory of all my loved ones and friends who have passed away

This past week, for me, has been a week of both contemplation and mourning.  The day when I was to attend a memorial service for my friend’s sister, I found out that a dear congregant of my church, who I was just starting to know, had just passed away.  Meanwhile, I heard on the T.V broadcast, more sobering news about the problems of violence in Chicago. Also, I heard on the broadcast that white nationalists and anti-racist protestors where planning marches all across the country. The last time this happened (i.e  last year), there was widespread violence—especially in Charlottesville.  While I have heard that both my friend’s sister and the dear congregant valued people and life, sadly much of society is turning the other way.  I believe that one of the roots of most of society’s ills is the fact that they don’t really value people.

In fact, one lesson that I learned on loss and love is not to take others for granted.  Unfortunately, all of us (including me, of course), have been guilty of taking for granted someone’s presence, at one time or another.  For instance, for many years, I had not taken much of an effort to really help or get to know my aunt. Yes, I appreciated all that she had done for my family and me, but it didn’t register in my head just how much she had done, until she got very sick when I saw her about a month ago.  Fortunately, I still can get to know her now. Also, I was very fortunate that I was able to visit my dear congregant before she passed away and realize what a beautiful and joyous soul she was, even in the midst of her pain and suffering!   Had I not realized how much my aunt had done for me now, and had I not taken the time to see and get to know my dear congregant friend before she had passed away, I would have been filled with regret and deep sadness about missing opportunities to see such beautiful souls.  One practical way not to take others for granted is to thank the people in your life who have had a positive impact on you.  Don’t just assume that they will be with you forever, because even tomorrow is not guaranteed for us—or them either.  Don’t assume they will be able to provide their help or impact you in the way you want them to, because sickness or death may take them.

Another lesson that I have learned on loss and love is to value the time that I have on this earth. Strive not to waste time. I know waiting in line or in traffic may seem like “time-wasters,” but I don’t mean those. The more dangerous time-wasters in our life, I believe, are being jealous of someone, chasing material wealth, and obsessing over our outer appearance.  I am beginning to learn more and more that being jealous of someone (for more on jealousy, or envy, please see this post.)  is so much a waste of time, primarily because it does not work to improve oneself, only to destroy another person.  Also, thinking in your head ways to destroy a person ultimately not only hardens your heart, but also ultimately destroys you, if this envy is left unchecked.  Chasing material wealth is a waste of time because it does not last forever. When you die, you cannot take your wealth or even your car with you.  Being generous and leaving a positive mark on this world will last longer than trying to hold on to something that ultimately will be destroyed or lost.  Obsessing over outer beauty is also a waste of time because ultimately it won’t last. We get older, and eventually our body decomposes after we die.   Yes, we should strive to look and smell decent whenever we can, since this is a gesture of politeness. However, we should not have to spend hours looking good every day just to impress others.  So, how do we save time? I would attest that the best uses of our time are to spend it joyfully with those you love and/or care about, by serving others in need, and by doing what you can to benefit others.

Thirdly, another lesson that I learned in love and loss is to forgive, forgive, and forgive.  Even when a family member hurt my friend and her sister, they still took care of and loved this person when they became sick.  Had they had still held on to their bitterness and resentment, things would have probably turned out much differently.  When we die, knowing we forgave those who had hurt us, I believe we will leave this earth much more joyfully and at peace than if we hold on to bitterness and anger against someone else.  This is one reason that I am glad that I was able to forgive some of the people that I worked with that had hurt me emotionally.   I know I have forgiven one of them, because now I feel closer to them and actually care about them more deeply than I have ever had before.

Finally, but not least, another important lesson in loss and love I learned is to strive to enjoy life.  My dear congregant friend, even though she could barely get out of bed and was in immense pain, still was able to greet my other friend and me with a joyous demeanor when we saw her.  From her, I learned that one is still able to have joy even in the midst of life’s trials. I can have confidence that either or both God and my loved ones will always be with me in the midst of my pain, and in that I can rejoice.  I can look to the positive aspects of my life that are still intact, and focus on those, instead of my pain. I am still struggling to apply this to my life, but I do see some improvements.  My congregant friend, even though she is no longer with us, still inspires me with her infectious smile that was present even in the midst of her illness and suffering.  I also have learned to enjoy every moment of my life.  Even in waiting in line to pay for groceries, for example, one still can enjoy it by striking up conversation with the other people waiting in line for you. This can be an opportunity to see the beauty in the souls with you.   Learn to enjoy life even in the mundane tasks that you may have to do at work or at school.  I see too many people just going through the motions, and then wondering why life is so hard and depressing.  Find joy in the people you are with. Don’t assume that everyone you are going to meet is a jerk. Yes, some of them are, but there are also others who may be very considerate and loving of you.  Try not to focus on the tasks and the people that make us miserable, but on those that help you get through the day.

Both my friend’s sister and my dear congregant friend embraced life and others in a way that allowed them to both enjoy life and value others.  This is the legacy they will leave to me, and this is the same way I strive to live my life. Sometimes, death makes us ponder what our purpose in life is and where we are going.  This pondering is vital so that we can fulfill our life’s purpose and be more focused on what’s most important in our lives. We have only a limited time on this earth. Let’s make it count!

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Importance of Gratitude

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, over 40 million adults in the U.S suffer from anxiety and anxiety-related disorders, including depression, each year.   (1) That’s a lot of people! Though with many types of depression, there is a chemical imbalance in the brain that is more successfully treated with medication, I think there is also a more natural way to at least alleviate some of the symptoms of anxiety and depression—gratitude.  I am not saying that everyone that suffers from depression or anxiety is ungrateful. After all, I am one of the people that struggles with depression and anxiety myself. However, I have found that when I focus more on what I do have, as opposed to what I don’t have, I often find myself more content with life.  Not only does gratitude often relieve depressive and anxiety symptoms, but it is also an essential ingredient in enhancing relationships one has with loved ones and the rest of the world. Here’s why:

Gratitude is an essential ingredient in one’s joy.  According to many studies, gratitude can also undo negative emotions and enhance one’s joy (2).  Gratitude, I think, is not only being content with what one already has, but also being content or making the best of one’s life circumstances.  This attitude, I have found, consistently helps me see that things are often not as bad as they could be. One way I have found that works for me in being more grateful is not to compare myself with people that have more than me, but to compare myself with people who are less fortunate than me.  For instance, last week, I was very sick, but I still could walk around and get out of bed if necessary. Some of the ways that I saw this situation that helped me get better was a.) I focused on the fact that I had a couple days off work, so I didn’t have to push myself harder than I should. So, I was able to use the time I had off to rest, and not focus so much on the fact that the next time I worked that I had to do so six straight days in a row b.) the fact that I still could get out of bed  and be conscious of what was going on around me.  There are a few people I know, and many people around the world, who have much difficulty even getting out of bed in the morning! Even in the depths of my short battle with a stomach bug, I still could get out of bed fairly easily.   Also, when I was on vacation, we had a breakfast that many of my family were not satisfied with because we had invested a lot, but they felt that they got little return on. However, I decided to focus on the fact that we even got breakfast at all! This attitude helped me a.) Enjoy the food given more and b.) Enjoy the other, more positive aspects of our trip.

Gratitude is, I believe, also an essential ingredient in one’s peace.  I have found, in my own experience, and in observing others’ experiences, that gratitude reduces worry and fear significantly.  Moreover, it eliminates the motivation for being envious of others.  I have shared with you in previous posts, how I was envious of those who were happily married with children and also my brother’s academic success growing up.  However, in the past couple years, I have realized that being single and where I am at now career wise, are still evidences of God’s grace upon my life and how far I am able to come despite the obstacles I had to overcome.  I also decided to focus on the blessings of the season of life I’m at now, instead of just the negative parts.  For instance, instead of dwelling on how lonely single life can get, I now focus on the fact that I have relative freedom to see the people I want, and not have to consult my significant other every time I want to do something.  I also can minister to more people that I would probably not be able to much if I were married or in any other type of romantic relationship.

I also find that when I am grateful, my fears and worries tend to fade.   For instance, when I get paranoid that certain people will hurt me emotionally, career-wise, or in any other way , I find that when I instead focus on the people that appreciate and care about me, that I don’t think about those “other” people anymore.   However, last week, when I was slightly annoyed that one of my managers gave me a tough assignment, someone immediately reminded me that this person gave me a tougher assignment because they had more confidence in me than other associates. When I focused on that, instead of the toughness of the assignment, I had a more merciful and grateful attitude towards this manager.

Gratitude is also an essential ingredient in love. I have found that most relationships that have been strained or destroyed are like that because one or both parties did not value the other person or persons in it. I believe this is most often true in cases where one party is abusing, instead of valuing, the other.   Gratitude improves relationships, I believe, because its emphasis is on valuing others and their accomplishments in a personal way.  For instance, there were several people at my work that I had trouble seeing eye-to-eye with. However, when I intentionally focused on what they did well and appreciated the good that they did, as opposed to just their faults, I found that my relationships with them significantly improved!  An ingredient in gratitude, I believe, that is not often talked about in most religious circles, is validation.  One of my good online friends demonstrates this to me almost every time we chat together.  Instead of focusing on things that I do wrong or that are wrong, she tries to focus on the positive things that I did and uses language that does not discount me or my experiences. She validates me, and this has helped me to have hope that more people will understand me better and not to lose hope in humanity. Another essential ingredient in gratitude and love, is valuing the time we have with those that love and care for us.  When my one aunt sacrificed her time and her energy just so she could spend time with and accommodate us, even though she was very sick at the time, I found that I valued her presence and time more because of her sacrifices that she made on behalf of my family and me.

As one can see, gratitude is an essential ingredient in joy, peace, and love.  I was not always a grateful person. In fact, in the past, I used to gripe about anything and everything that didn’t go my way and focus on those things, and overlooking any blessings that were given to me.  However, in June 2014, my gallbladder (for more on this story, see this link) almost burst, since it was twice the size it should have been and inflamed. Thankfully, the gallbladder was taken out before anything serious happened to me.  However, it was only three years later, while relating this story to a co-worker, and she said, “You could have died!,” that I realized the value of my life and all that I have been blessed with by God and others.  Don’t let a potentially fatal experience like mine be your wake-up call to the importance of gratitude.  Be thankful today. Therefore, when you are content with what you have and strive to make the best of every situation, you will eventually have more joy, peace, and love in your life and in your relationships with others.

 

 

 

 

 

1)  Anxiety Disorders Association of America. (2017).Facts and Statistics.  Retrieved from: https://adaa.org/about-adaa/press-room/facts-statistics.

2) Greenberg, Melanie, Ph.D,   (November 12, 2015).   How Gratitude Leads to a Happier Life. Psychology Today.  Retrieved from:  https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-mindful-self-express/201511/how-gratitude-leads-happier-life.