What I’m Learning From Recent Changes in My Life

As you may recall in my previous posts, in 2016, I went through some of the toughest and most drastic changes in my life. 2016 was when I got my current job. It was also the year my brother moved away, and I started to attend my current church, after having been at my previous one for ten years!  Here I am, three years later, and am about to undergo, and have undergone even more changes in my life!  First of all, at church, we are in a period of transition, where we will soon be getting a new pastor, as my current senior pastor will be stepping down after 40 plus years of service to our church.  Second of all, there have been so many changes that have been occurring at my job that I couldn’t keep track of them all unless I really thought about it! Finally, there are some other personal changes that I have been going through or will be going through that will have a great impact on my life. Even in these various changes going on in my life, God is still teaching me so much, that can be not only applied to me in the situations I find myself in, but also to everyone else, in their life situations.

The first thing I am learning is to not waste time because time is fleeting. In the past, when I thought I had a lot of time, I had more of a temptation to waste time, because I thought that I still had a lot left.  I thought that if I saved certain tasks for later (i.e procrastinate on some things), that I would have something to occupy me later so that I wouldn’t get bored.  For instance, if I wanted to enjoy watching a certain movie, I would save it for a time “when I really got bored” so I would have something to do later.  While it is good to be able to delay gratification sometimes, I am learning more and more that I shouldn’t wait to enjoy life while there is still time, because there may not be a later.  Also, something that I have been learning and that I really, really regret, is that I never really said everything that I needed to that was on my heart to those people I loved, and now some of them are leaving. For instance, my current pastor is leaving after 40 plus years of service in our church, and I have only been attending for less than three years. I regret that I did not really get to know how amazing my pastor is as a person and as a pastor, because I never really spent much time with him or his wife. From now on, I will strive to make time for the people that matter the most to me. Instead of spending hours stressing about work or surfing mindlessly online, I will strive to spend more time with those I love and like.  I also strive to not be afraid to say the things that I need to say to those I love and/or admire the most. I had been afraid to say some of the “nice” things too, because I didn’t want to sound “fake” or too “mushy.” However, now I realize that since it is from my heart, I am not being fake or mushy.  So, is there something on you hear that you would like to tell your loved ones or friends? Don’t wait until it is too late to tell them how much they mean to you. You may never get another opportunity to say what you need to say!

The second thing I am learning is to stop worrying about the future and trust God. When I first underwent some of these changes, I admit I had a worrisome “What-if” mentality in my head. Since I didn’t know exactly how these changes would impact my life, I assumed the worst, and that made me miserable and cranky.  However, through the message that my next pastor was preaching yesterday, I learned that I need to let go of the worry and the possible “What-if” scenarios that may or may not play out, and just trust the process.  For instance, one of the changes at my work is to my schedule. I was content with working mornings, but now they want most people to work second shift, including me.  I was initially worried that this change would stress me out to breakdown point, and I even tried to fight it a little bit. However, God showed me, in the sovereignty He had over the events of my life, that this change was from Him.  I learned from God through that message yesterday that when I entrusted the situation to Him, that He would give me the strength and the resources I needed to get through the change in my life, and indeed He has! When we worry about the future, we don’t allow God to work to change us so we can successfully adjust later on.  We get stuck in the past and “What-if” scenarios, and we waste time worrying, instead of asking God to help us get through today.

Finally, I am learning that God’s presence and guidance will help me through the transitions in my life.  This year, I am striving to let God have control of my life and not to “help” Him through the situations in my life.  In fact, the more I try to control certain things in my life, the more chaotic and destructive my life often becomes!  However, when I relax and not let my anxiety and my desire for control take over me, as I let go and allow God to work through me, I find that I am much more calm and able to do His will. Often when I try to fight the changes in my life, the more apparent the changes become! This also happens when I am trying to escape a situation or a person. For instance, if God wanted a person to be in my life, but I didn’t want the person in my life for whatever reason, God would make it so that I would see the person more often! However, when I just tried to deal with that person in a godly manner, the situation either became better or that person that was bothering me in my life would finally leave.

Even in the changes of my life, I am comforted by the fact that God never changes, and that He will continue to teach me valuable life lessons as I am being shaped into His image.  I am learning to use my time more wisely and more intentionally for the people that I have been called by God to minister.  I am learning to be less anxious about change, and to trust that God will bring me through all these transitions.  God is still working in our lives, even through change. The question is, will we continue to let Him?

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Importance of Time

I know most people have heard the phrase, “So much to do, so little time.” I know this has been the case for me, more so just in these past couple of days, as those around me have become more “time-conscious.”  One of my friends reminded me that Jesus is coming soon (though we don’t know the day or the hour).  My parents let me know last night that our days in this place may be numbered.  So many U.S government employees are wondering how much their savings will last until the shutdown is finally over (which I hope, for their sake, is very soon!).  As my pastor has said repeatedly, “Time is life.”

Time is life.

That alone should point to the importance of how we spend our time, and help us not to waste so much time, me included.

Other reasons why time is so important are implied in these facts:

  1. Time is limited.
  2. You can never get the time you lost back.
  3. Time is valuable.

Yes, we live longer than we have, let’s say 100 years ago.  Even so, we will all eventually die and face our eternal destiny.  Time is limited.

Sadly enough, we all have been guilty of wasting time, at one point of our lives or another. I know I am not immune to this. I have wasted too much time being bitter about people that either didn’t mean to do me harm, or didn’t care that they harmed me.  I should have just forgiven them and moved on in my life, instead of brooding about what they did and how much they had hurt me.  I have also wasted too much of my life wallowing in self-pity, anger and despair. 

Maybe you have had similar stories of time wasted.

 Maybe instead of appreciating your spouse (if you are or were married), you catered to your own selfishness and self-indulgence, until it was too or almost too late to save your marriage. Maybe instead of caring for that relative or friend, you brushed them aside in their time of need because you were too busy to attend to them.  Maybe you have wasted time doing other things that were just not that important, and neglected the things that should have been most important.

I think the reason we sometimes waste time is that we are not conscious of time. We perceive we have more time than there actually is. Some people don’t anticipate change—or that time will move on without them.  Moreover, we think we can make up for lost time, only to discover it was too late!

So, how do we redeem the time (i.e.. not waste time)?

First, we have to be time-conscious. Most people are more time-conscious when they know their time is limited, such as when a loved one dies or when they attend a funeral. However, we don’t have to wait for death to knock at our door in order to be time-conscious.

Lose the attitude that you have all this time in the world! Strive not to procrastinate! Do what you can today, and strive to live each day as it was your last. Some people go to work, or even approach life, as if it were drudgery that will last forever, doing nothing to change their attitudes or their circumstances.  I am not talking about people suffering from depression or who have already done what they could and are still miserable. I’m just talking about those that are determined to stay miserable no matter what.   Know that time is fleeting. If you are having a tough time now, there is hope because this will eventually pass. If you are content with your life now, be thankful for all that you have been blessed with.

Secondly, we have to determine what is important to us. In order to not waste time, we need to prioritize what is most important to us.  We need to ask ourselves what we value the most, whether it be God, our family, our friends, or other priorities. Then, we need to spend the most time on those things we value most.

For instance, I value God, family, and friends, in that order.  If I want to redeem my time that I have in life, I will focus on the interests that matter in my relationship to God, my family, and friends. I would not waste time wallowing in self-pity or being idle in regards to these priorities.

Also, we need to be sure that what we value will last through eternity, and not put so much emphasis on those things that are fleeting. For example, if a manager or co-worker at your job has a bad day and gets snippy at you, don’t become bitter and angry for more than a day with them and let that destroy your relationship with them, if you value relationships as eternal.  Instead chalk it up to them having a bad day, and forgive them for their frustration at you. 

Since our time is limited, valuable, and can never be regained, we should be sure not to waste time.  In order to do that, we need to prioritize what is most important to us and be sure we are conscious of the scarcity of our time here on earth, valuing each day as if it were our last. 

Let’s redeem our time today, and do positively in the days we have left on earth!

Precious Sunshine

–written 10/26/2018

Tears fall from your weary eyes

As your foes plan your demise

You think you lost it all

But I’ll protect you from the fall

 

For you are precious to me

Your light I will always see

Your presence brightens my life

And it never causes me strife

 

You have given me much love

You’re a gift from up above

You give me reason to be

Because your soul shines in me

My Hope-Givers and How To Give Hope

-written 11/27/2018

Giving Tuesday is the day after Cyber Monday that traditionally is slated by non-profit organizations to encourage charitable giving.  Indeed, many people all around the world need hope—from the poor and needy, those in prison, those starving for love and affection, those struggling with a mental or physical illness, and many others.  Today, I want to celebrate hope-givers and encourage all of us, me included, to be hope-givers ourselves, and, in so doing, give a bright future to the people in our world.

As you may already know, I have had about a twenty-five year struggle with depression.  However, even in my darkest pit, God always provided people to give me hope that I could come out of the pit, more victorious and alive than ever before. By listing these people, I have the hope that in your own struggles, that you will be encouraged that there are people in your own life that will also give you the hope you need at the right time.  I also want these people to know that they are important and that they have made a difference in my life. Here are some of the following people that gave me hope when I needed it the most and how they provided it for me:

  • My parents and brother: They were there for me during my toughest times, and did their best to support me through it all. They always encouraged me to never give up, even when I wanted to. Because of their persistence and love, I was able to come out the other side of depression a stronger person.
  • My mentor J: She always encouraged me that I was not the stupid, not-good-enough, failure I had imagined myself to be. She always saw the best in me, and encouraged me to never put myself down, especially for things beyond my control.
  • My friend Veronica*: Once when I was having intense suicidal thoughts and was visibly upset, she was able to convince and encourage me to see hope and joy again in my life. Also, because she has so much joy and hope in her own life, while still being real about her struggles, I have been inspired to follow suit.
  • My friend Holly*: Holly has always given me hope that I am not alone in my struggles, and she always has words of validation and encouragement, even when she herself was experiencing very difficult things in her life.  Her unselfishness, along with her uplifting words, helped me to know during the tough times, that there was always hope for me.
  • My friends Anna* and Karen*: Karen and Anna have always been there for me as good online friends, who have encouraged me through the tough times, and shared with me the good. Their honesty about their own struggles in life and how they have persevered through them, have given me hope that I, too, could come out victorious over my depression and other issues in life.
  • My manager Elizabeth*: My current manager always gave me hope that even when I mess up or feel insecure, she has my back, and she believes in my abilities as an associate and as a person.
  • My manager Chris*: Chris was the one that gave me the opportunity to work at my current job in the first place. He also has believed in my abilities as an associate and as a person, and has encouraged me to work diligently and wisely.
  • My friend Laura*: Laura has encouraged me to see me how God sees me. She gave me hope that even in the dark throes of depression, that she was willing to be there for me when I needed her the most. One time, when I was particularly struggling with self-hatred, she had sent me a most precious forward about the beauty she saw in my heart with her caption “This is you.” I will never forget that.
  • My pastor John*: My pastor was instrumental in helping me redeem a work relationship that I thought was past redeeming. God used him to do a work in my heart, and the relationship I had at work was reconciled.

How To Give Hope

Giving hope is not only about giving encouragement, though it sure may be a very important element in it. Giving hope is about looking at someone and seeing the golden nuggets in their soul, like most of my hope-givers have done for me.  Hope-givers see what those who have despaired or lost hope are blind to—the beauty in their soul and the hope in their futures. For example, I have several friends who are unable to work. The world may see them as lazy or useless, but I see them as those who still can give others encouragement and perseverant, as they wake up each day fighting the illnesses that try to defeat them.

Giving hope is about being a shining light into someone’s life, when he or she feels alone or forlorn by others. Sometimes, I have felt that way during certain situations, but my friends Veronica and Holly have always encouraged me by making me feel less alone. All my hope-givers have helped me find the light in my soul and helped it to shine. We, too, can be the shining light into someone else’s life that desperately needs it.  We can do this by being there for them whenever possible, by helping them through their pain, and by speaking words of hope and positivity into their lives.  Saying things like, “I’m sorry you are struggling so much today, but I want you to know that I am here for you, and you are not alone, “can make a whole world of difference in a person’s life.

Giving hope is also about being hope in their lives. For instance, my manager Chris, not knowing me as a person yet, took the chance and gave me the opportunity to work at my current job.  Had he not given me the chance to work where I am now, I don’t know where I would be today. He gave me hope of a new opportunity to shine.  Also, my mentor J, gave me hope by helping me find work and giving me the tools that I needed in order to get out of my rut of depression and hopelessness that I had felt for years. I try to give hope myself by sharing my love for others through my writings and also helping them feel valued and encouraged through thanking them when I see the positive difference they have made in others’ lives, including mine.

When we give hope, we give life to others. Who around you is dying for love and hope today? Maybe be there for them and give them the encouragement that they are still valued and needed, because being a hope-giver for them could save their lives.

*=Names have been changed for privacy of the individuals mentioned.

How God Has Blessed Me This Year

I don’t want to list my blessings in order to parade them before other people in pride and pomp, but to highlight how good God is and continues to be, not only to me, but to all of us.  Sometimes, we fall on difficult times and we forget about the good times because we are so focused on the stressful situation at hand. I get that, and unfortunately, I do that, too.  However, I hope, with this list of blessings (not all inclusive, that would take literally days and weeks), that each one of you will think about how you have been blessed this year and how God has helped you through some tough times, as He has to me:

  1. I got to see my relatives this summer, some of who I hadn’t seen in 8 years! They live very far away (as in I couldn’t even drive there to go see them!), and I had such a great time getting to know them and their families, as most of my cousins are married with children now.  I also got to see many sites and eat delicious food.  I even travelled with some of them to other cities within the area.  Even though some of us got sick, God really protected my family and me from any strife and anger.
  2. When I was faced with the prospect of spending Christmas alone, God put in my heart to try to request off from work so that my parents, my brother, and I could all spend Christmas together. I did, thinking there was no harm to try even if I didn’t get the days off. I had talked with my manager Elizabeth* about this and she said she’d let me know the next week. Well, the next day (It was a Saturday that same week), I checked to see what the status of my request for days off were, and they were already approved! Immediately, I texted my brother, who bought plane tickets for us to go to Texas.  I am so happy that, as of this writing, I will get to not only spend Christmas with my family, but also get to see the area where my brother now lives! God is good!
  3. I really got to know my friend Allison* this year, and we have become close.  I realized that she and I have a lot in common, and we are able to encourage each other and give each other hope on the tough days.  I am blessed to be able to know her and I look forward to seeing her each day at work, when we are both working.
  4. My manager Elizabeth*, not only gave me the days off that I wanted, but also has helped and mentored me to become a better associate and person.  She also has encouraged me not to be so self-deprecating (as I am quite the perfectionist,:\ )  by telling me how much she appreciated my character and my work. She always tells me that I’m amazing, but I really think she’s amazing, as both a manager and a person. Unfortunately, a few weeks ago (as of this writing) was her last day at the company, but I have been so blessed to have known her.
  5. God sent one of my other managers, Chris,* to save my physical life by discouraging me from working for him when there was a snowstorm ensuing outside. I wanted to work a double shift for him because I felt bad when there were hardly any associates to help him, since most had called off due to the storm. However, he said that he cared about his associates, and did not want me to have an accident due to fatigue + a snowstorm, especially since I lived more than a few minutes from work.  I ended up listening to him, and going home at a decent time. I even had to call off the next day because the storm was so bad.  Had I worked for him and had he not said anything to me, I don’t know if I would be alive today.
  6. God has provided us with a new pastor when our current one had announced that he was leaving. Though I love our current pastor, it is clear from God that he is going to be on a different journey. However, even through all that, our upcoming new pastor is not only familiar with the congregants (He grew up at my current church), but it seems that he will continue the legacy that the pastor that is leaving has worked so hard to build.
  7. God has continued to use my blog and my writing to be able to bless and encourage others. He has even provided an opportunity for me to join a writing group in order to improve my writing skills and to reach and minister to even more people through the lessons (or, whisperings) that God has taught me.  

These are just a few of the blessing that God has bestowed on me, in His goodness and love, this year. How has God blessed you this year? What has He done to help you see His love and grace in your life? Please feel free to discuss in the comments.

*=Names changed, in order to protect the privacy of the individuals mentioned

Having Christmas In Your Heart

This past week had been very stressful for me—and for many people around me.  Two or three departments at my job were without management, including mine, leaving me to do even more work than usual. Managers, associates, and customers were seemingly extra busy and pressured this past week—especially some of the higher levels of management at my workplace. At church, we just voted in a new pastor, who will officially start a few months from now. Finally, in the midst of all this, my family and I are making our own preparations for Christmas.

You may be also experiencing similar stressors—but, maybe, hopefully not.  Regardless, I was encouraged by God to develop more peace in my life and to incorporate more of the character of what Christmas truly should be about, in my life. As I read in my church bulletin today, Roy L. Smith, had said, “He who has not Christmas in his heart, will never find it under a tree.” So, if we can’t find Christmas under a tree, how can we find the true character of Christmas?  Here is what I learned about finding the true character of Christmas in my heart:

  1. One of the things that I learned about having Christmas in my heart is that I needed to have more peace in my life. – In Matthew 11:28-30, it says that when we rest in Jesus, He gives us peace for our souls (translated in the KJV as “rest,” which is essentially the same thing). Unfortunately during this week, I found myself being anxious about bad things that either never happened at all, or wasn’t as bad as I once thought.  For instance, I was very upset at myself because I accidentally spilled my entire lunch. Not only did it  needed to be cleaned up, but I would have to now waste time and money buying myself a new one so I would be able to sustain myself energy wise to continue to be able to work afterwards.  I was also stressed out as I thought about all that I already spent on presents for various people in my life, and now I had to spend this additional money and have less time to eat my lunch!  However, all my anxiety turned out to be for naught, because although I did have to spend more time and money, I also got to eat some things that I have never really tried before—and turned out to be pretty good.  Additionally, one of my kind and generous friends, Allison*, graciously gave me almost her whole bag of her favorite onion ring chips. What I have learned about not being anxious is to look for the good in my uncomfortable, bad, or anxiety-producing situations. If I can’t think of any, I should try to ask myself what good can come out of the situation at hand. For instance, if I don’t have time to complete my work, I should try to focus on doing a good job on the work that I CAN complete, instead of rushing to try to complete everything and doing a half-hearted job. I also am still learning and have learned that when I let God be in control, my anxiety goes away.  When you become anxious, reminding yourself that God’s got this, or that things often don’t turn out as badly as we fear they might, really can help the anxiety go away, or, at least, lessen in severity.
  2. Another thing that I learned about having Christmas in my heart is to cultivate joy. — Sometimes, in the midst of stress and busyness, we forget to enjoy life.  I know that is often the case with me. One of my online friends even had suggested to me in the midst of me writing about my stress that week to take time and enjoy myself.  Yes, we should love and serve others, but we should also not forget to have joy in doing so.  Also, we need to take time to rest and recharge occasionally so we can minister more effectively to others and not get burnt out.  One of the things that I like to do for relaxation and recharging is to read about various topics such as various recipes, different places around the world (travel),  exercise, inspirational topics, and much more.  I used to be part of an online blogging group that encouraged me to read other people’s blogs, which were on a wide range of topics.  Because of this, I was able to broaden my interests. One thing I would recommend to anyone struggling to find something that they enjoy doing or having more hobbies is to force yourself to read books in a library or articles online on a variety of topics that seem interesting to you.  Then, as you learn about more things, often your interest in that said topic broadens as well.  Also, when we serve others, we should have joy in getting to know those who we are serving and focusing on their contentment, rather than on the stress of having one more thing added to our “list” of things to do. Also, when we focus this Christmas on having the joy in having Jesus come to earth as a human baby to eventually grow up and become the ultimate sacrifice for us, instead of the busyness and commercialism that this society often puts in Christmas, we will be happier to serve others.
  3. The most important thing I learned about having Christmas in my heart is to cultivate love.– Since it says in the Bible, in various places, that Jesus is the embodiment of love,  and since love is what makes Christmas more meaningful, I learned that instead of acting like the Grinch, I should strive to love others more.  Christmas is not only the time to give presents to family and friends, but also to be willing to sacrifice for them and others.  For instance, if Christmas is difficult for someone, sacrificing your time to be there for them to encourage them through it and helping them cope with this time of year, can make their Christmas a little bit brighter than usual.  Giving others hope when they are in a hopeless or a desperate situation can help them to see God’s love and to know that they are not alone.  Another way to love others is to thank the people in your life that have made the most positive difference in your life. For instance, if a teacher or manager at work has really encouraged you in your abilities in some ways, now is the time to thank them and to let them know that they are not taken for granted. If your parents and/or significant other have served you faithfully for a long time, now is the time to let them know that you notice their sacrifice and their service on your behalf.

So, as this post is as much to myself, as to you, the reader, I hope we will cultivate the character of Christmas in our hearts and lives, so that we can impact the world for the better.  When we don’t have Christmas in our hearts, the joy, peace, and love that flows out of the Christmas spirit, will never be found even under a tree. Let’s pray that this will not be true of us this Christmas season, but instead we will embody the joy, love, and peace that this time of year is supposed to bring, not only to ourselves, but more importantly, to God and others.

An Open Letter to My Facebook Friends

Dear Friends,

I have been saddened by the general climate of the world around me. So many people are hurting, and some people seem to have the need to be nasty to others.  Despite it being the holiday/Christmas season, it seems that a lot of people are more stressed than ever.  I think Roy L. Smith was right when he said, “If one does not have Christmas in his heart, he will never find it under a tree.”

So, how do we have Christmas in our hearts, or how can we have joy and peace this holiday season?  The answer is simple, yet difficult to do: We need to love each other like we never have before.  I don’t mean the mushy, romantic type love. I don’t even mean just friendship love. I mean the all-out, sacrificial, agape love!

Many around you carry deep pain and hurt inside.  Some may have lost a loved one around the holidays. You may even be one of these people, and to you, I say this: There is hope when you can be vulnerable and tell a trusted friend or loved one how you have been feeling, so that you can begin to heal.  Someone out there cares for you. Don’t give up.

If you are not, or if you are already in the process of healing, I say this: Do not let the stresses and pressures of life allow you to overlook these people. Do not let your heart become calloused and apathetic to the hurting people around you. Always strive to be compassionate and caring to others.  It could make a world of difference in their lives, and could even save a life! Don’t just ask someone how they are doing and walk away. Listen to and try to be genuinely interested in what they have to say in response.

Always try to uplift people and encourage them. If you see a peer or co-worker doing a good job, thank them for their efforts.  If someone is down on themselves, encourage them by pointing out the good you see in them.  If someone thinks no one cares about them, tell them that you do and then demonstrate that love and care by doing a tangible act of kindness for them.  Maybe it can be as simple as a kind, encouraging word. Or maybe it can be watching their kids, if they have children.

This can take us out of our comfort zone, especially if we don’t like some of the people we are dealing with, but it is well worth it.

Friends, let us bring joy and love to the hurting people around us today and help them experience the best Christmas or holiday ever!

Patricia