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

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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

You Are Loved

written November 8, 2018

I wake up at around 4:15 am to go to work. After I ate my early breakfast, I went to my bedroom to spend time with God. I was having a difficult time praying because I was so upset at some of my life’s circumstances and certain people that were irritating me, that I failed to focus on God at that moment. I also felt that God was far away from me and that I was very much alone.  I thought something like this: “Why is life so difficult for me? Why do I always mess up time and time again? Why is my life the way it is?”

God, being merciful and loving, wrapped His arms around me and surrounded me with His caring presence. He said, “Don’t you believe that I love you? Remember that I am here for you always, no matter what your circumstance or how many people upset you. I have your back, and I will do the best for you!”  Immediately, I felt a sense of peace and joy at being loved by the Creator of the universe! The angry thoughts disappeared, and I was able to go back to my prayers and bible study.

Even if you don’t believe in God, know that there is someone out there who cares about you, and who wants the best for you.  Sometimes, it may seem like we are alone, but then a precious soul comes into our lives and adds value to us. This has happened to me many times in my life. Besides my loving and great God, I am blessed to know that there are kind people at church, work, and most of all, my family, who really do have the best for me, when it is all said and done.  One person in particular my mentor J, has always believed in me and wanted the best for me. 

Sometimes, we don’t yet know what precious souls will have the most positive impact in our lives. When I was in school, I did not know how to make lasting friendships with others, so I thought maybe the only people that would positively and dramatically impact my life was my family.  However, in the past ten years, many people have helped me see life in a new and more positive light. J pushed me to believe that I could accomplish things that I thought I may never be able to do, and I did!  My friends at work and the management team at my work helped me to learn new things and encouraged me and believed that I could make a positive difference at my job.  My friends Veronica*, Kelly* and Erica* believed that I could touch many people’s lives, as they believed I did in their lives.  Because they loved me enough to encourage me through the good—and the tough times–and with God’s help, I am able to be who I am today!

So, if you are feeling discouraged and are going through emotional or physical pain, know that sometime and somewhere, you will meet your precious soul or souls that will encourage and love you through life.  It may not be today or tomorrow, but if you don’t give up, they WILL come.  I have struggled with thoughts that maybe people don’t really love me, or they just want to be with me so they could “use” or “take advantage” of me somehow. If you are in an environment where people regularly take advantage of or abuse you and you have no supports, I would encourage you to a.) Get out of the abusive environment as soon as you are able to. B.) Seek out support today, whether it be a member of clergy or a therapist or counselor. It has taken me many years to get to a point where I have a good support system, but trust me they are so worth everything I have ever experienced in my life.  It has taken me a long time to believe that people love me for who I am again, but I am so blessed to have those people now in my life, and I wouldn’t trade them for anything!

Believe that there are people that love you for you too, because no matter who you are, or what you have done, you are loved!

Lessons Learned From a Manager I Will Never Forget

It was a cloudy and cold February day in 2016. My mom and I just stopped by my current place of employment on the way from shopping and also to check the status of my application. The first person I met there was the HR manager, who, surprisingly, scheduled me an interview that same day at 1 pm—not enough time to prepare anything spectacular and change into nicer clothes, since it was almost lunchtime.

The second person I met was a woman, Anastasia,* who was also interviewing for a similar job, and she was dressed for the interview. We made small talk, while waiting to be interviewed.

The third person I met was the interviewer. I did not know this, at the time, but he was going to be my manager, Chris*.  I was very nervous while being interviewed. He asked me only one question, “How did you go above and beyond for a customer?” I answered, nervously stumbling over my words, that I would go to great lengths, even asking a manager for help if I was not able to help them myself, and praying for them if they wanted prayer.  Because I was so nervous, I was not even sure if I was going to be accepted for the job!

Chris was very busy, walking back and forth, between either stocking or doing returns and checking on the job offer process.  I had never seen a manager work that hard in my life!

About a half an hour after being interviewed, Anastasia and I both found out that we were accepted for the job! Anastasia accepted immediately, but I sought counsel from my loved ones, before accepting the job offer the next day.

After that, though I didn’t realize this at the time, that Chris would make such an impact on my life and teach me some important life lessons, I would never forget him:

Here are some of the lessons Chris taught me that can be applied to anyone’s life as well:

  1. Whatever you do, do it with all your heart.–Ever since I first met Chris, he never did anything half-heartedly. He always worked to ensure each customer had the best possible service experience possible. I remember once he gave the customer a discount because the product wasn’t priced correctly. He also made accommodations for associates’ schedules, understanding that they have a life outside of work too. Once, Chris gave me a Saturday off so that I could go to my good friend’s son’s graduation party. He also worked hard at what he did too, working extremely long hours and sacrificing everything  sometimes to ensure that things got done that needed to be.  Because I saw that he worked with all his heart, I became inspired also to never to do things half-heartedly whenever possible. I, too, found myself wanting to work with all my heart. This resulted in me being able to gain the respect of others and striving to be even better in what I did, as an associate.  Even my friend Mark* commented recently that Chris always worked so hard, even though people didn’t really appreciate him.
  2. Strive to know each person’s life story before judging them.— During my first year of knowing Chris, I had such a difficult time getting to really know or understand him. Thus, we had many conflicts. It was very difficult for me to think positively about him, because I had already judged him a certain way in my heart. However, when Chris told me about all the sacrifices he has had to make every day for the people at my workplace, including me, I was so filled with remorse and regret about not valuing him as I should have that I later cried in the break room.  He forgave me, but I had learned an important lesson that day: Not to judge people before knowing what they have to go through.  Plato, or someone, had said to be kind because everyone you meet is fighting a harder battle.  I find that when I learn each person’s life story, that I don’t judge them negatively anymore, but I become filled with more compassion and understanding of what they have had to go through on a daily basis. Thanks to the lesson that Chris taught me about this, I have met some of the most genuine and compassionate people through taking the time and effort to learn their life story a bit more.
  3. Work to value each person in your midst, or you will regret it when they are gone or leave you.— During that first year when Chris was my manager, I don’t think I really valued him. I never knew that one day I would be faced with the reality that I would probably never get to see him again, and that I would regret that year to this day. I was so consumed with anger and bitterness towards him, that I was blind to the light in his soul.  However, one of my pastors, Pastor John,* helped me to release that junk to God, and later our work relationship was able to be redeemed. Unfortunately, Chris would be moved to another area of the store altogether, and then to a different shift altogether.  I still got to talk to him, but much less than before.  My heart hurts knowing that I will never be able to redeem the time that I lost that first year to bitterness, anger, and resentment that should have never occurred.  I should have valued him much more—because not only did he give me the opportunity to be employed at my current job, but he taught and gave me so much that I will never be able to adequately repay.  So, we should learn to value each person that walks our path, because they all can teach us something to better our life. Sometimes, they can even change our lives for the better—and those are the people we should keep close to our hearts before we lose them altogether.

When we are passionate and diligent about what we do with our lives, when we learn about others before judging them and when we work to value each person that is in our midst, we will make the world a better place.  Though I know that my time with Chris, just as with everyone else, is limited, I will always be thankful for what he has done for my workplace and for me, and the impact he has made in my life.

 

*=names have been changed to protect the privacy of the individuals mentioned.