How to Cultivate Gratitude

I am happy and blessed with my life, though it is not always free of challenges and trials.  As I have shared before, I have struggled with depression since I was a little girl.  Though this was not the cause of all of my depression, I found that when I realized what I actually had rather than focusing on what I lacked; I found that I was able to cultivate more joy and gratitude into my life.  Yes, cultivating gratitude can sometimes be a challenge, especially when you are facing something tough and personal. However, it still can be done. Gratitude should be cultivated even more during times of prosperity and peace.  Here is what I am learning and have learned about how to cultivate a grateful attitude:

  1. Focus on what you do have, rather than what you don’t have: I believe that the number one barrier to being grateful is our focus. When we focus on all the things that we lack, we tend to develop an attitude of self-pity, which often leads to complaining and bitterness. When we focus on the things we do have, we realize just how much we are blessed. For instance, when I get frustrated at myself because I don’t know how to do something right, my focus is wrongly on the talents that I don’t have instead of my strengths. However, if I shift my focus on something I am better at—such as writing– I find that I can be much more encouraged and less upset at the thing in which I am struggling.  Many people who struggle with being grateful for what they have also struggle with envy because their focus is on getting (or wishing they had) something that someone else possesses, instead of what they have already been given.  For instance, I used to envy people who were happily married and had children, because, as a single, I did not have those for myself. However, when I instead focused on the relative freedom and time I had to help others, I realized the blessing that I had being single that these married people no longer had.
  2. Know that we are often given more than we deserve: Many people, including myself, at times, struggle with the fact that we get more than we deserve, because of our sense of entitlement. However, even though we have all hurt others, though maybe not all intentionally, most of us still have people that love and care for us, and we have some semblance of joy in our lives.  The fact that others still give us mercy even though we may have hurt them before should cause us to rejoice and be thankful!  If you drive, have you not gotten a ticket even though you were speeding through traffic? That is evidence of mercy!   Or you made a serious error at work, and your boss does not fire you? That, too, is evidence of grace and mercy!  Bring to mind the moments when you should have had to bear the consequences of your bad actions, but in God’s and others’ mercy, you didn’t have to.  Moreover, think of the times when you did something careless, but you were saved from disaster.
  3. Consider others who are in worse situations than you: Finally, a great way to cultivate gratitude is not to look at others who are doing better than you, but see the people around you who are in more difficult situations than you. For instance, some people I know have either a loved one struggling with a serious medical issue or are struggling themselves. This helps me to be grateful that my family and I are in good health, even though I may come home from work tired sometimes. Recently, at work, we had a celebration for the bonus that my co-workers and I were able to get on our last paycheck.   They served pizza. Though the pizza became cold after being out for several hours, I was grateful work provided pizza for us because of what I heard about the struggle of people in other countries to get any food at all. In particular, I was thinking about the people of Venezuela. I heard that since they have had an electrical shortage, meat cannot be adequately cooled in freezers, so eventually it becomes spoiled, but the stores sell them anyway because people need food. So, the people actually buy the spoiled meat, season it with some spices, and eat it!  Their dire situation helps me be grateful that we have so much food, electricity, and working cooling systems (freezers and refrigerators) in the U.S and that we can eat delicious, edible food that is not spoiled.

By focusing on all that God has blessed me with, by knowing that I am often being given more than I ultimately deserve and by considering people in worse situations than me, I am able to cultivate an attitude of gratitude for my life. When I do this, I find that I am not only able to be more thankful for what I have, but I am also to have more joy, even in the tough times. Even though we may face many challenges and struggles, we still can cherish and appreciate what we do have before it is too late.

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Forgiveness

Forgiveness    9/14/2018

Seeds of bitterness invaded my soul
A flaming rage was consuming me whole
Even a momentary glance your way
Evoked feelings of revulsion and dismay

But when I saw the agony you were facing
And the endless burdens you were carrying
The wrath burning in me melted away
The barrier that was between us gave way

My heart of wrath melted into one of love
Being able to give compassion to you
And give you forgiveness that was true
Because someone had forgiven me too

Why Love is Worth It

Too many times I hear on the news, stories like these: a man kills his pregnant wife and two children, because he had an affair with another woman; people in the government spewing words of hatred and vitriol at each other because they can’t stand the others’ criticism,  several teenagers beating up a man because they believed he was Muslim. The man beaten up, as it turns out, wasn’t a Muslim at all. He was Sikh, but no matter. The point is, news stories like these reflect the problem of apathy and hatred in our society.  Moreover, hate is ultimately not worth it—not for those around you, and also not for you either.

Wouldn’t you rather hear stories like these, anyway:  a.) A caring police officer saves the life of a little girl trapped in a hot car for twelve hours.   b) A teenage girl touches many lives by seeking and encouraging the new in her school, the hurting, and the disabled.  After she is martyred, many people share with her parents what an impact she had made on their lives.  c.) Many people band together on social media and volunteer to return a lost dog to its owners.

While hate ultimately destroys everyone and everything in its path, love restores, renews, and redeems. Love, as I define it, is not simply a romantic gesture, but the real life, gritty, lavish, life-changing, joy-filled sacrifice and life that both believes the best in others and seeks their best.

This love, though it may be tough to live out sometimes, is always worth it. Here is why:

  1. Love positively changes others’ lives: – Love can influence people’s hearts. Heart, as defined here, is the soul of someone—with all their emotions, thoughts, and passions. True love can soften someone who previously was callous and cold.  When you show sacrificial and genuine love to someone, their spirit is lifted up. We all want to be loved, and when someone shows us a deep, genuine love, we instinctively know we have value in their eyes. For instance, I know my family loves me because they have often sacrificed time, money, and their own interests to help me through something or because they know I would be impacted positively because of their sacrifices. When my friends and I show love to each other at work, I see our eyes light up and people’s hearts generally soften, even if they have a “tough guy or gal” mentality on the outside. Love also can cause a chain reaction. When Rachel Joy Scott touched many lives in her community by her kindness and generosity, after she passed away, many people have been inspired to touch lives the way Rachel did, including this writer.  Naturally, if a leader leads with kindness, their people are likely to follow their example. Love can also heal brokenness. For example, in my own life, there were several people at work I did not get along with for one reason or another. However, when I intentionally tried to be  kind and loving to them, I found that not only did these people softened towards me, but I also began to heal from the bitterness and anger I had felt for them. Also, when a survivor of abuse, bullying and other hurts is finally, truly loved, with no strings attached, they begin to heal from their pains dramatically.
  2. Love positively changes your life: When you truly demonstrate sacrificial love for someone else, your character will be built. For instance, when I was a young child, I was extremely rigid and self-centered. However, as I began to learn how to love and care for others, these tendencies began to become less and less. No, I am still not perfect, and I still do struggle occasionally with these self-centered and inflexible tendencies, but I can tell you that I am a much better person now than when I was ten years old! Love also helps you gain confidence in yourself and others. As you love others, and see the positive effects of genuine love in your life, you will see yourself and the world in a much brighter light. No wonder many counselors suggest that people who are depressed do something to love another person! Because of this confidence, love will help you have more joy in your life.
  3. Finally, love is worth it, because there is always hope in love: True love always perseveres, even when everything else has given up. For instance, some people were telling me to give up on someone that I had harbored a grudge against. Ultimately, though, my love for them didn’t allow me to give up, and I was able to forgive them.  There is always forgiveness in love. True love never holds grudges. Once you hold a grudge against someone for more than a day, you no longer love them.  True love also looks positively to the future and to the other person who is being loved.  A person who truly loves someone else never gets jealous, but truly wants the best for the other person, even if it doesn’t always include the lover.

Yes, it is tough to truly love sometimes, but it is certainly worth it. Not only will true love positively impact those around you, but it will also positively change your own life as well.  Also, if you don’t give up loving, even in the difficult times, there will be much hope for you and your loved ones in the future. So never give up on love, because it is always worth it!

What I learned in Five Years

Five years ago today, I had just been employed at my previous job for a few months.   Also, I was five years into membership at my previous church.  I had just met my mentor J, maybe a year back.  All in all, I could have never known the adventures in my life that awaited me, even a year or two later.  Five years later, I can honestly say that I have learned so much. Here are some of the things I learned:

First and foremost, I learned how to relate better to other people.  The one thing that I will always appreciate about my former place of employment is that they taught me so much about how to relate successfully to customers that I also apply to the job that I have now.  For instance, I learned how to cater to the customer’s needs, even when it may have been inconvenient or difficult to do so. Thus, I learned just how valuable the customers are to the business.  More recently, I have also learned the power of forgiveness. I can think of several people that I currently work with or for that I had misgivings about in the past, with whom I now get along great!  One important thing that I learned from those experiences that helped me to be able to forgive these people is to put myself in their shoes.  I know it may seem very difficult to do, especially since they hurt you! It was tough for me too, but when I was able to do this, I found that I was able to see, not just the person that hurt and damaged me, but maybe a hurting, vulnerable soul inside. I was able to see them through eyes of compassion and love, instead of through eyes of hate and disgust. Thus, I also learned how to love people better. Though being angry is still a struggle for me, I have learned so much about understanding others better and being a living sacrifice both for God and others.

Secondly, I learned some secrets to be content. Overall, I can say, five years later, I am more content with my life than I had been before.  One secret of contentment that I learned is gratitude.  In 2014, a year after 2013 (which was five years ago), I became very ill and had to be rushed to the E.R one day. (For the full story on this, go to this link.).  To make a long story short, I had an inflamed gallbladder that was twice the size it should have been, and it had to be removed. However, it was only three years after the surgery that I realized that I could have died had the surgery not occurred when it did! So, realizing that, I have learned to value my life more.  Also, many people around me have either gotten sick or died, and experiencing these trials alongside them has helped me to appreciate my good health more and also the value of making a positive difference in others’ lives.  Very recently, I have also learned to worry less. Though I still struggle with worry sometimes, I can happily say it is less than before. I have learned to trust God’s plan for me and also to let certain things that used to worry and aggravate me, go. For instance, I used to get really upset when traffic was really bad and people cut in front of me.  However, ever since my recent vacation where I learned how to tolerate traffic that was BEYOND horrible (even though I did not drive), I learned to be more patient and grateful for the comparatively smoother traffic I have where I live!

Finally, I also learned how to stay motivated and passionate in life.  One of the things I learned was to widen my interests. I learned this primarily by reading others’ blogs, as part of the blogging community I am part of online. Reading blogs covering a variety of topics, has piqued my interests in things that I didn’t care about or focus much on before, such as cooking and travel.  I also met diverse groups of people at work and at church. Meeting these people has also helped me discover new interests and things to learn about that I have never explored before.  I also have learned how to look to the life beyond the grave. Because of what I have learned in church and in life, I have learned to focus on a.) eternal rewards (i.e heaven) and b.) leaving a positive legacy for future generations more. This focus has motivated me to do the best I can in almost every aspect of my life. I want to leave this world knowing that I contributed something of value to it, and that I loved others as the valuable beings they are.

Overall, though these past five years have gone by so fast, I have learned so much. I can honestly say that I am a different person than the one five years ago. In the future, I want to continue to grow as a person and continue to live a positive legacy for those around me.

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!

True love

True love

True love is giving someone more mercy and grace than they deserve.

True love is focusing on the good of someone even after they betrayed you.

True love is sacrificing yourself, even if you are not feeling well, to serve and to be with those you love.

True love is valuing someone so much that you want the best for them even if their future is not to be with you forever.

True love is helping those in need without expectation of return.

True love is valuing those who may not seem attractive to you.

True love is telling someone difficult truths, not so they feel bad about themselves or fall into despair, but so they can see the light and become a better person.

True love is about encouraging others who need to see the difference they have made in yours and others’ lives when they feel like they have nothing to show for their effort.

True love is about giving hope and joy to those who you think are least deserving.

True love is about sacrificing your time and money to help those who need your love and support now.

True love is about laying down your life, so that others may live.

True love is about sacrificing your desires, so that others may have a chance to blossom and rejoice.

True love is about letting the car, whose driver is in a hurried panic, cut in front of you, during construction.

True love is about forgiving someone who had hurt you deeply, and then investing deeply in them.

True love is about caring about the safety of others by warning them if they are about to fall into danger.

True love is about persevering through a tough situation, consistently, so that others may be spared of the pain you are going through.

True love is about giving your all to those you love, so their lives may be bettered and so they can start a chain reaction of positivity.

Worth It- a poem

Worth it     6/30/18

–for someone I know

On one cold wintry day

I was looking for hope

A place where I could grow

Where goodness I could sow

 

When I looked at your face

And the ones around me

Showed me amazing grace

I saw a gleam of hope

 

But then darkness took over

I hated everything you did

And what you were to me

Your light I couldn’t see

 

After that, the storm ended

All my pain, hurt, and hate

Melted away from me

Your light I could now see

 

For all you are to me

For all the good I see

And all the grace and love

I see and find in you

You are always worth it