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

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

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!

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Legacy I Want To Leave

Having gone through depression and being an Advocate personality (a, la Myers-Brigg personality type), I had rarely felt like I belonged anywhere, and thus the subject of death came up many times in my mind.  However, in the past few years, when I think about death and dying, I think more about the legacy I want to leave and what kind of life I want to have lived should the inevitable happen.  Recently, I visited one of my fellow congregants, who is now in hospice. Thinking about the pain and the triumphs that she has been through, I started also thinking about the legacy I want to leave when it is my time to go.  Here is the legacy I want to leave:

First and foremost, I want to lead a legacy of love. I don’t want to leave this earth with people thinking that they were not valued and loved by me.  Sure, I may have bad days, and inevitably this may happen to some degree, but as far as it is possible, I want people to know that they are valued.  I not only want to speak encouragement into others’ lives, but also want to show tangible demonstrations of God’s love to them whenever I can.

I also want to contribute to ending social injustices, such as abuse and slavery.  One way I aim to continue to do this is to spread awareness about these injustices and help some of those who are or have suffered through this.  I want to continue encouraging and coming alongside, as a support, to those I know who have been through abuse or any other type of social injustice.

I also want to buck the trend of apathy in this society, by going against this trend. For instance, I have seen a lot of people both in the places where I work or used to work, do their job solely for the paycheck, and have no passion or joy in what they are doing or for the people they are supposed to be serving. For me, I don’t want to be that person who has no joy or passion for others or for life.  I want to serve others, both at my job, and at other places, with all my heart. I want to work hard because I know it will all be worth it in the end.  When I see someone hurting or suffering, I want to at least stop and pray for them.  I don’t want to turn a blind eye to them, but see where I can help meet their need.

One of the reasons why I don’t ever want to be known as apathetic is because I know how it feels to be devalued by seemingly apathetic people, or people that just gave up on me.  When I have been visibly upset, I lost count of how many times people either just judgmentally stared at me, or avoided me altogether, not even trying to help or seeing if everything is OK. I was also rejected by caretakers at a daycare because I was too unruly for them to handle.  Also, because I had had a demanding personality when I was a child, most of my peers didn’t really want to be close friends with me. When I was going through hell and back in my early teenage years, I could probably count on my hands the number of people that actually cared enough to ask me what was going on with me.

I also want to be able to let go of the things that won’t matter after I die.  Right now, what I am working on letting go of  is a.) holding grudges and anger against individual people. b) the need to be always in control.  c) little things that bother me now, but won’t matter after death.

Sometimes (ok, often), when people offend me, I tend to replay what they did and how I would respond if it happened again.  This replay-tape in my mind tends to build up my anger and bitterness for those people.   I am working on (and getting a bit better at) not replaying the tape so many times. I want to be able to let go and forgive, because I don’t want to be holding grievances against any person when it’s my time to go.  I also want to let go of the need to have everything go my way. I always had thought that if everyone would just cooperate with me and everyone and everything would exactly be this certain way, I wouldn’t be stressed or upset at anything anymore.  However, I have learned that even if things don’t all go exactly my way, I still can find joy and peace in the fact that everything will turn out how it is supposed to and that God will give me the strength I need during each season of my life.  I also want to let go of all the other things that bother me in life, but that won’t matter when I go, such as not finding  something that I want to use or waiting in traffic.

Finally, I want to hold on to the things in my life that will ultimately matter. I aim to always value my God, my family, and my friends, in that order, and above all else, than anything else  this life has to offer. I want to value people over things. I want to hold on to continually developing and improving my character.  I want to be less angry and anxious. Ever since I was little, I have had the propensity to worry. However, I want to leave here not worried about anything anymore. I want to be at complete and total peace.  I also want to be more compassionate to others and less self-centered. I don’t want to let one more day go by without being thankful, in some way, for the people that are in my life. I want to glorify God every day of my life, and I want to love others the way that my God and the people that He brought into my life have shown love to me.  I want to cause a positive chain reaction and ultimately change my world for the better.

My Legacy–a poem

My Legacy  6/17/2018

 

When it’s my time to go

I want the world to know

The fullness of God’s great love

The love from up above

 

When it’s my time to go

I want people to know

That they are so much more

Than just another face

 

When it’s my time to go

I want to live in peace

With no more bitterness

And for anger to cease

 

Before my time is up

I want to serve others

And share the immense hope

I found in my Savior