Hope-Giver

 

written:  11/30/2018

Once I was lost and alone

Looking for hope and love

The true kind from up above

The kind that would never die

 

I was dealing with much pain

People caused me much hurt and strife

But you came into my life

And brought healing to my soul

 

You gave me true love and care

You gave me value and hope

When I was on my last rope

You are my great hope-giver

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Dying Well

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Butterfly

You thought no one would want you

You thought you were hideous

That none would truly love you

That you were doomed forever

 

But then you saw a bright light

Someone who saw your beauty

And not just an ugly sight

Giving you true hope inside

 

Despite all you have gone through

You are a true butterfly

And I will always love you

And the beauty inside you

Why I Have Hope Everyday

Image by Wokandapix from Pixabay

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

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

Hope was, and always is, Jesus.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

More Than I Could Ever Dream

-written 3/5/19

When I was growing up, I was a naughty and very active child.  Despite my energy, I did not really have any close friends.  Back then, I dreamed of one day going to a prestigious university, like my parents, and getting the best grades possible. I probably thought, unconsciously, that if I made it to a prestigious and a good university, I would then be able to get a job that would pay me a lot of money, and thus I would win friends and influence.

Indeed, I worked very hard in school and got decent grades.  However, I really didn’t have passion for the content of what I studied; I just wanted to do well to please my parents and also to be “the –girl-who-worked-hard-and-got-the-best-grades.”   I wanted to be respected and valued. In retrospect, getting good grades at school became a sort of idol for me.  I worshipped the god of achievement, and without it, I reasoned that I was worthless.  

Shattered Dreams

(courtesy of photobias)

Then, when I was sixteen years old, I struggled through several classes. I no longer got the grades I wanted or needed. I was even in danger of failing a class. One of my teachers even said in so many words that he didn’t believe I would ever amount to much in this life, probably partly due to the fact I wasn’t doing so well in his class. I also lacked peer support. In fact, no one in my class dared to counter what that teacher said to me. I also I felt my family could not relate to the turmoil inside me, as they seemed to be living a different life.  In fact, in a journal entry from April 1999, I had written, “I wish I could be more […] effervescent (lively). I feel dead without being physically killed. I hope I don’t die emotionally, but I am dying. If I could only find that zest, that greatness life is supposed to hold. But where is it, at least in me?” I was so depressed that I wanted an escape, maybe to even end my life.

However, several months later, God saved me from that.  Fast forward a few years later, I went to college, but not at a prestigious university which I had dreamed.  After I graduated, I tried to look for work in my field of study, but to no avail.

After that, I finally found a part-time job in retail. There, I learned many customer service skills and other people skills I needed to succeed.  I did well there, but after a while, I felt God calling me to somewhere else—a place where I never thought I’d end up.  It was during that time, that God was preparing me for a new life, where He would give me more than I could have ever dreamed.

I was so excited when I got an interview at one of the local bookstores near where I lived! I had always dreamed of working in a bookstore!  I loved books, and the workers there seemed nice.  However, the day of the interview, I quickly found out that I wasn’t the right fit.  At this point, I didn’t think I would get another job opportunity any time soon. The search went on.

Metamorphosis

Then, one, cold wintry day on February 25, 2016, I went with my mom to the store I now work to buy a few things.  What I did not know was that trip would change my life forever.   

I asked the HR representative the status of my resume, and after that she offered me to interview at 1 pm.  Since I didn’t have adequate time to prepare or change into more formal attire, my mom and I ate lunch at the mall nearby, and then I went back to the store to get interviewed.  When I got interviewed, I was so nervous and stuttering over my words, that I thought surely they wouldn’t accept me. To my surprise, I got a job offer! I waited until the next day to accept, after I sought counsel from my family.  On March 10, I officially started at my current job.

Meanwhile, many people were leaving my now-former church. I loved that church, but inside there were so many changes that it rocked the congregation. About half of the congregation left or were in the process of leaving.  At about the same period of time, my brother told my parents and me that he was going to go to school in Texas to get his Master’s degree.  What I didn’t know then was my brother was going to live there permanently.

I felt, except for my new job, that my dreams were going to be shattered all over again.  I would either have to accept the changes at my now-former church or find somewhere different to worship. Not going to church wasn’t even an option for me.  I would also have to adjust to life without  some of the support of my brother.

My brother left for Texas in August 2016. The day he left, the house felt hollow and quiet. The basement that used to be full of my brother’s stuff was now almost bare, but habitable again.  My dad went with my brother to help him move.  My mom and I remained at home.  I felt numb and solemn that day. My heart felt like there was something missing—the void where my brother’s physical presence radiated my life.

Then, in mid-October, I said goodbye to the church that I had been attending for about ten years.  It was very hard, as I had established so many friendships there, and these people were like a second family to me.  Before I left to visit a church nearby, I was in tears, as I said goodbye to some of the congregants.

However, there was a very bright spot, in the midst of all the goodbyes, a month before I left my now-former church.

In September, I was working the swing shift, and one of my managers, Hope* was closing with me.  She was complimenting me about my performance that day. Since I was still part-time, I told her, “I am thinking of becoming full-time. However, Chris*, my manager, said I should wait a while. I was wondering how long I should wait.” Then, Hope replied, “You shouldn’t have to wait. You deserve full-time.”  Later on, or the next day, she put me in for full-time. Later, Chris also approved my full- time status. I was ecstatic!  Because of all the challenges that I had to face, I never dreamed I would ever get a full time job in my life! 

A month later, after I had left my former church, I visited another church.  It had many more people than the one I had previously visited.  A friendly couple greeted me and I sat by them.  Even the pastors were friendly. The sermon that day was very thought-provoking and relatable to what I was going through in my life. I didn’t know yet if this was going to be my new home church, but I liked their genuineness and their devotion to the Word of God, so I kept going. In August of the next year, I officially became a member of my current church.  Through my church, I have learned how to have an engaging quiet time with God, how to view life more positively and differently than most of the rest of the world, and how to forgive people who have hurt you deeply.


God’s Perfect Plan

No, I never got the six figure salary I had dreamed of, nor did I get into a prestigious college. However, I have been blessed with more than I could have ever dreamed. Through my church family and people at work, I have gained a strong support system. Also, I am still in touch with several people from my old church, who I still consider good friends, even though they live very far away from where I am now.  Through the tough situations I find myself in at work, God has used those to strengthen and shape my character into His.  Through church, I continue to train to be able to share the love and hope that I found in life through God and His gracious plans for me.  Yes, I still have bad days, but overall, I have found more joy and satisfaction during these past two years, than at any other time in my life. God has certainly blessed me with more than I could ever dream!

*=names have been changed for privacy reasons

I Will Never Give Up On You  – a poem

written : 12/6/18

 

Through all your triumph and glory

When I see the light in your soul

And I see you becoming whole

I will never give up on you

 

Through all the laughter and the pain

Through the joy of being with you

Through all the good times and the bad

I will never give up on you

 

Though at times you will fall and fail

And you want to give up and bail

Because you don’t think you’re enough

I will never give up on you

 

Though sometimes you drive me insane

And there are times of stress and hurt

Where some people treat you like dirt

I will never give up on you

What I Learned From Rachel Scott’s Life

On April 9, 1999, I wrote in my journal that I was dying inside. Nine days later, on April 20, one of my now-beloved faith heroes, Rachel Joy Scott, was shot and killed by one of her classmates. Her legacy and impact, however, will live on for many, many years. One of the lives that she has touched is mine. I have been so inspired by what I learned about how she lived her life! The three major things I learned about life from how she lived is 1) how to appreciate people and things in one’s life more. 2.) how to be amazing— and strive for more than “average” or the status quo. 3.) how to be authentic.

First of all, Rachel was known by others as being appreciative of what she had. In fact, according to the book, Rachel’s Tears by Beth Nimmo and Darrell Scott, she always stopped on her walks to look at the flowers and to engage with babies and small children when she went to the mall in her area ( Nimmo and Scott, 69). She also had the reputation of really engaging with the people she encountered on a regular basis and helping them when needed. Because of what I learned about how Rachel lived her life, I also aim to be an encouraging presence in others’ lives, instead of being a whiner or Debby downer. In order to do this, like Rachel, I must be willing to sacrifice my time in order to really be able to engage and invest in others.  In fact, in his book, “Chain Reaction,” Darrell Scott reiterates this fact. He says, “Many people are too busy, but if we want to be helpful, we will need to take the time.(Scott, 115).

Secondly, Rachel once wrote, according to multiple sources, that she wouldn’t “ be labeled as average.” In all the books and articles I had ever read about her, I sensed that Rachel Scott wasn’t one of those people who just lived to “get by”. She wanted to try her best in order to impact as many people as she could, for positive. She constantly strived to improve herself after she sensed that she fell short, both in her relationships with others and things like her job and work at school. She didn’t care if the people she encountered were outcasts or in any way different from her or perceived societal norms. She interacted with the people that needed her encouragement and love the most, even if it cost her reputation. I also aim to be so much more than “average” or the “status quo”. Like Rachel, I aim to upset the apple cart when necessary. I also aim to impact as many people as possible with the love Jesus Christ and countless others have graciously shown me. How much more satisfying life is when we strive to do our best everyday and not just do something halfheartedly.

Finally, another lesson I learned from how Rachel lived her life is how to be authentic. From all that I have read and heard about Rachel, I gathered that she was honest about her feelings and struggles, and therefore was able to be more relatable to others. It bothers me, however, when people act like they are perfect and don’t have any struggles, because I know they are hiding something from me and probably aren’t trustworthy either.  Rachel, in what I have gathered about her, was almost never, if ever, like this! I learned from her life to be open about my personal struggles, not so others will pity me, but to be more trustworthy and honest about who I really am, and to comfort and encourage those going through similar issues. I also learned that if one is honest about their struggles, it opens up the opportunity for others to open up as well, with less fear of being judged or condemned for their problems. This is where healing begins!

I have never personally met Rachel Scott, but am very excited to be able to meet her in paradise someday. To me, she is almost everything I would love to be–appreciative of others, amazing (or at least more than average), and most of all, authentic. This is why she remains one of my “faith heroes” today.


Sources:

Nimmo, Beth and Darrell Scott. (2000). Rachel’s Tears. Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

Scott, Darrell, with Steve Rabey. (2001). Chain Reaction. Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.