Things I Learned In Order to Cope with the Coronavirus

-written on March 22, 2020

Saying that these are uncertain and tumultuous times would be an understatement to so many in this world right now.  I just moved almost a week ago and face some uncertainty because of that event. However, many of you are facing even greater uncertainty and even fears because your jobs may have been eliminated or changed, your children are no longer able to attend school, except online, and most of you can no longer attend church services, mosques, temples, or any other place of worship  because of this pandemic.  Even with all this trouble and uncertainty in the world today, there are still ways we can successfully cope with these new realities and stay healthy, both physically and emotionally. Here are some things I learned about how we can cope with this pandemic that is affecting our livelihoods:

  1. Selfishness can cost lives, so we should strive to be considerate of others.—When people hoard the essential supplies to combat or prevent the Coronavirus, or when they are rude and noncompliant with those that provide services and supplies that they need, they are being selfish. This selfishness can cost lives because it can force stores and other businesses to close and those without means of transportation and means to online services can potentially starve or be in otherwise grave danger because they will have to go without the supplies they need to survive day everyday.  If people don’t practice social distancing, not caring about whether they will potentially infect someone, they could potentially make someone who has a compromised immune system or is fragile physically, to get seriously ill and even die!  This can happen because the person who is acting nonchalantly can be a carrier of the virus, even if he or she doesn’t yet present any symptoms. However, when we practice social distancing, so that the virus does not spread, wash our hands frequently in order not to spread potentially harmful germs, and when we are patient and considerate to those who serve us and to those in need, I know God will give each one of us the grace we need to be able to endure this trial for as long as He allows.
  2. God will always provide for us, so we do not have to be afraid of not having enough.—Many people are in fear of at least some aspect of their livelihood being affected by this virus—whether it has to do with their job or financial security, having adequate food and water, and even that they may contract the virus themselves. I confess that I had some fears in all these categories at some point during these past few days, but then God brought this verse to mind:

“Casting all your cares upon him, for he careth for you.”-1 Peter 5:7 (KJV)

That is when I was reminded by God that He cared for me.  And He still cares for every single person reading this today, even when we are going through trials. Not only that, but we don’t have to fear because God always provides for us what we need in some way because of his loving care for us. In fact, Philippians 4:19 (KJV) says:

                “But my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.”

My family and I have personally experienced the truth of this verse, even just over this past week!  For example, my mom needed chicken to cook a dish, and she looked for it in several stores, only to discover they were already out.  However, God provided us with the chicken through my brother, who was able to find it at a store closer to his house, and bought it for my mom.  Another incident where God graciously provided happened a few days ago, when I found out I would still have a job, after having worried about what I would do if I didn’t have one, since I tend to delve into depression and get antsy when I have to stay home and not have work to do.   Moreover, I would have a very difficult time staying at home for even several days on end, and still be relatively sane and stable mentally.   Thankfully, I went in for the job offer at my new workplace, and they allowed me to start the next day!  Not only that, God provided for me beyond what I had asked or even expected when I discovered I got a good raise compared to the last place I worked! I am so blessed!  God also did the same for Job, after Job’s time of intense suffering, by fully restoring or replacing all that Job had before. I am convinced that if we all continue to fully trust and lean on God, He will do similarly for you, in His timing, according to what is right for you. Even when you don’t think God is coming through for you right now, do not give up on Him! God will always come through just when you need Him. His timing is always perfect. 

3.) I learned we should help others in need during this tumultuous time, according to what we are able to do.—If you are healthy, do not have the virus, and have the means to do so, help others who are battling the emotional and/or financial effects of the virus. For instance, if a friend—online or real life, wants to talk or vent to you, listen to them with thought and consideration. Do not seem too busy or judgmental in your demeanor.  Offer words of encouragement to them as they face these trials. Share with them how you are getting through it and tell them about the hope that comes from Christ. If they need financial help, and you are able to do so, give them the resources that they need as a gift, not expecting repayment, as  burdening them with a loan can create additional financial and emotional burdens that they don’t need right now.  Help your loved ones in any way you can, and value their presence in your life even more now, as they may have no one else they interact with face-to-face.

If we do our best to put others before ourselves, trust that God will always provide what we need, and help others struggling with the effects of this pandemic, we will defeat Coronavirus and God will make us stronger and better than before!

Looking Back the Past Decade, Looking Ahead

This past decade has been a flurry of changes and growth. I am not the same person I was ten years ago. God has taught me so much about how to deal with difficult situations, and He is continuing to grow me into the person I was made to be. Sometimes, I feel that I have been through more in these past ten years, than in the previous twenty or so years of my life. However, all these experiences have made me into the person I am today.  I am currently working on writing a memoir called “Becoming a Butterfly,” which really symbolizes my life’s journey in this past decade.  

What happened this decade?
Ten years ago, I was unemployed and the church I was attending at the time was still in process of finding a new pastor.  I was far happier than I was before I became a Christian, but far more depressed than I am now.  My brother was still living with my parents and me, and he was trying to find a full time job.  I could count on my hands the friends that I knew back then that I am still in contact with now. 

In the past three years, I have become a full time sales associate. I have learned how to cut fabric, do online orders for customers (OGP), take calls in the fitting room, and be a registered back-up cashier at my store.  As of right now, I am still the only associate in my department, not counting my immediate supervisor, that is a register trained cashier at my store, thanks to my now-former supervisor, Elizabeth* (*=not her real name).  

I am a blogger. I have made about 300 posts on my blog since December 2015 when I started this blog.

My brother moved away to another state, where he is currently employed full time in a much more satisfying job than he had ten years ago.  He also adopted a cat.

At about the same time when my brother moved, I moved to a different church. This turned out to be one of the best decisions that I have ever made, not that I didn’t like the people at my old church. I loved (and still love) them! However, at my current church, I am able to grow as a Christian and as a person in ways I thought I never would or could. I have two godly pastors, who not only actively serve people in our church, but also the community at large.  In my church, I have met some of the godliest and most compassionate people in my life that are also very committed to following Christ. They aren’t perfect, but they always strive to follow Him as wholeheartedly as they can.

What were the best parts?

The best parts of this decade were gaining full time employment , meeting  many amazing people at work, some of whom changed my life for the better, and finding a good church home where I have felt loved and valued. God has also used people there to help me grow in my faith in Him.

What were the worst parts of this decade? 

Since he moved away, I haven’t been able to see my brother face to face as much.  We Skype regularly with him, but it is not the same as having him here in person.  There have been so many changes in my life since ten years ago; it has produced some anxiety in me.  Thankfully, most of the changes in my life have been good, however.

What did I learn and how did I grow?

As I said before, I learned how to be a backup cashier.  I never thought I would be able to run a register (till), much less be a backup cashier that is called up to ring semi-regularly!  I learned how to deal with different types of people, which I didn’t do so well growing up.  For instance, I learned (and still am learning) how to be less self-centered and more compassionate towards others and their needs.  In the past, I thought no one would truly love me, if they really knew who I was.  In this past decade, I have learned over and over again, that if I just strive to be my best, authentic self, most people will appreciate me and love me for who I am. And the people who don’t? They can get out of my life, or at least stay far, far away from me!

How has your decade been?

My decade truly has been an adventure!  I am indebted to my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, for construing all the blessings that I currently have in my life!  I pray that I will continue to grow in my faith and impact the world for the better.

What are your plans and dreams for the future? I hope to continue serving God, no matter where my life takes me.  Soon, I am going to move out of state—something I have never done before in my life! I am going to have to leave almost everyone I have ever known behind, but God will be with me.   At work, I want to learn how to mix paint and make keys for customers.  If God wills, I would like to share my life with a guy who values similar things that I do, and who serves others, works diligently, is responsible, cares for me, and above all, follows Christ, wholeheartedly, as his Lord and Savior.  I would also like to become a published author and complete a memoir that will inspire people never to give up on themselves or others.  I count it a privilege and a blessing to have known so many great people in my life thus far, and hope to know many more

Qualities of my Closest Friends We Should Strive to Have


Photo by rawpixel.com from Pexels

I am willing to be friends with almost anyone, but every person that I consider to be my close friend embodies these characteristics. No, they are not perfect, and may fail at times, but they have consistently embodied these traits. Not only do I prefer these following character traits in close friends, but I think, everyone, me included, of course, should strive to embody these traits every single day, so we can make a true difference in this world:

  1. Authenticity
  2. Servant’s Heart
  3. Vulnerability
  4. Thoughtfulness/Care
  5. Depth

The most important trait that my close friends all have is authenticity. This means they always present themselves as honest, trustworthy, and genuine.  They do not act one way towards others, and another way towards you. They don’t do things with ulterior motives. All my close friends do not do things for people just to get something from them, but because my friends really want to help and bring joy to their lives.  Also, another part of how they are authentic is their honesty.  For instance, when one of my close friends gives me her wisdom, she always tells me the truth, even if it hurts. Some people have been afraid to tell me truth because they are scared that I will get upset at them and they will be looked upon as harsh or mean. Nothing could be further from the truth!  I appreciate this about my friend because her honesty shows that she values me and having integrity—a rare, but needed trait in our society today! By telling me the truth, she is inadvertently telling me that I am worth what is true.  Sure, some of the things she has said may “sting” a little bit, but I appreciate that because it shows that she values honesty.

Another trait that my closest friends all have is a servant’s heart.  All of my close friends have lived in one capacity or another to serve the Lord and to serve others.  Some are serving the Lord as missionaries. Others are serving their families when everyone else has abandoned them.  Still others are serving their community through their resources, gifts, and talents. I strive to do the same. When we have a servant’s heart, we emulate Christ, who went so far as to die on a cross for us, and to wash every one of His disciples’ feet, even those of the one who would eventually betray Him!  They are constantly thinking of others above themselves, working to make the world a better place for everyone.

Image by Manfred Richter from Pixabay

Also, another trait that my closest friends all have is the willingness to be vulnerable.  I define vulnerability as being willing to share openly not only one’s triumphs and victories with a trusted person, but also one’s trials and struggles. When I see someone that is unwilling to admit to me or to the world that they are not always “perfect,” I feel like they are lying to me in a way, because I know no one, except God, is really perfect.  Mark Hall, of the contemporary Christian band, Casting Crowns, once said, “[I]t doesn’t bother the world that we sin. It bothers the world that we act like we don’t.” (CBN.com) One of my friends, Veronica,* is so passionate about being vulnerable, it saddens her when others are not willing to open up to her.  In years past, I admit I have struggled with being vulnerable because I did not want people to judge or ridicule me.  However, I have realized over the past five to ten years or so, that being willing to be open about one’s struggles opens up other people to not be afraid to share their struggles. It shows unity in our human-ness, and creates a deep bond between people who are like-minded in their willingness to open up to each other.  It also enables others to help us through our struggles, and us to help in theirs, so we will not feel alone in our pain and struggles.

Another ultra-important trait my close friends have is thoughtfulness and care towards others.  Along with having a servant’s heart, they are truly intuitive to the needs of others.  One of my close friends, Erica,* knowing that I have struggled off and on with the loneliness that comes with long term singleness, gave me a book that she thought would help me (as it has helped her as well) with my lonely and unfulfilled feelings that I sometimes struggle with, for my birthday.  I will always treasure the thoughtfulness of that gift and her friendship, even though we are not able to see each other very often right now. A few days ago, when I was distraught and anxious about several events that were going on in my life, my friend *Bonnie was willing to take time out of her busy life to answer my texts and encourage me, as she sensed that I was hurting and sad.  I aim to do the same for her, when she has issues, and also for anyone else who wants moral support in a time of need.   All my close friends are willing to take the time to attend to others’ needs and to give them the encouragement they need, especially in a tough time.

Last, but certainly not least, all my closest friends have spiritual and emotional depth in them. This is what I aim to have in my life more and more, though it is often a struggle for me, as it is even for these friends. This does not mean they shut themselves off from the world around them. However, this does mean that they are able to relate on a deeper level with people. For instance, when I want to discuss why there is injustice in this world, they can give me spiritual insight in wisdom into why God allows this and how we can remedy it. In contrast, some people either don’t care about these things or aren’t able to understand these things. For believers in Christ to have spiritual depth to them is an essential ingredient in being able to relate to others in their church and to get others, even those who don’t go to church, to think about their purpose and goals in life and how they can relate better to the world around them.

I’m so thankful to have these great, close friends—you know who you are—who embody these characteristics.  I pray that we all would strive to embody authenticity, a servant’s heart, vulnerability, thoughtfulness, and depth to our lives so we can bring love and joy to others, and lead them to freedom from their pain and fears.

Source: “Casting Crowns: The ‘Lifesong’ of Mark Hall.” Accessed 12 May 2019. < http://www1.cbn.com/music/casting-crowns:-the-‘lifesong’-of-mark-hall>.

*=names have been changed for privacy reasons

On Combating Loneliness


image by : Lukas Rychvalsky

written 4/1/2019

A recent study by Cigna found that about half, or one out of every two Americans, feels lonely. (1). In the age where everyone and everything seem more closely connected than ever, especially by the Internet and social media, this statistic is particularly alarming. Moreover, a study by the CDC, found that suicide rates are also increasing by as much as 30% over the past decade (2). In fact, during junior high through my sophomore year in high school, when I felt the loneliness, I often had suicidal ideations. Thankfully, God, in His mercy and sovereignty didn’t allow me to go through with that option.

We were all created for community. Even when Adam was surrounded with animals, God acknowledged his need to be surrounded by at least one other person when God said in Genesis 1:18 (KJV), “It is not good that the man should be alone.” So, after that God created Eve from Adam’s rib. Even Jesus, in order to fulfill the purpose which the Father had for Him, had to be surrounded by people, at least some of the time.  Believers in Christ or not, we are all created to be with at least one other person. This doesn’t have to be in the context of a romantic or marital relationship, but we do need some kind of relationship with another to truly be content with our lives.

When I was growing up, I didn’t really feel connected with my community at school and I rarely attended church. As I consequence, I struggled on and off with loneliness throughout most of my childhood.  Many people, especially the younger generation, sadly feel the same way I did when I was growing up. 

Though we are, in some ways, more connected to each other than ever, through phenomena like globalization and the Internet, we can also be more isolated.  While we may have more virtual connections, our face-to-face connections as a society have suffered.  Because many people may see that their face-to-face connections are suffering, instead of confronting this problem head on, they may be tempted to retreat into virtual reality.  For instance, in my personal life, I found that when I am stressed and/or feel lonely, I tend to isolate myself more. 

One of the things that God has taught me through all that, is not to isolate. For instance, about two weeks ago, I was so depressed I couldn’t get out of bed to go to church!  However, later I decided I should try to go the evening Sunday school class at church, so maybe I’d feel better.  Not only did I feel better, but some of my friends were able to help me through what had been causing me to feel depressed in the first place!  Also, when we are part of a community, there is place for both accountability and vulnerability. (Yes, there are toxic communities where people will not feel safe to be vulnerable or accountable. In that case, I would find another, more genuine community, and not give up until I found the right one.) . In a community, we can learn from one another, be accountable, and can encourage one another. That is why, in Hebrews 11: 25, Christians are encouraged not to forsake the assembly of believers (i.e…Don’t neglect your local church community).

Another thing that God has been teaching me about combating loneliness is the connection between being lonely and the temptation to forge idols.  I know several people who have turned to idols, whether it be smoking, workaholism, alcoholism, gambling, or a number of other life-dominating vices, because they sensed a void, or loneliness, in their lives.  One of my pastors said that the reason that many people turn to idols because they have a mistrust of some aspect of the character of God.

So, God has been teaching me, that In order to combat true loneliness, I need to forsake any idols that I have used as a “filling in” for any of my perceived feelings of loneliness.  One thing that I have realized combats both the loneliness and idolatry is basking in God’s presence and learning about and believing His character.  In my class that I attend Thursday nights at church, when I learned about God’s steadfast love and that He would never leave or forsake me, through Scripture, I found that I became more joyful and more aware of His presence in my life. It goes without saying, that I no longer felt stressed or lonely that day, in dealing with life. Also, I was surrounded by a community of believers that were able to help and/or teach me to overcome some of my temptations to idolatry, so I would be less likely to fall into that trap again.

God has also been teaching me that some people are lonely because they feel afraid to forge connections with others, even though they may crave it.  This may be due to a number of reasons, but one of the major reasons I found in what I have observed with people around me, is that people don’t want to forge connections because they are afraid of getting emotionally wounded by another person again.  They have been wounded, manipulated, and/or betrayed by so many people in their lives; they would rather risk loneliness than be abused again. I don’t blame them for this reaction, but ultimately it will ruin them as well.  I used to be one of these people who was afraid to be vulnerable and really connect with others, and thus, I was constantly depressed and lonely. However, I found that when I became vulnerable and was able to be myself that I not only became less lonely, but I also became more confident of who I was and where I was going in life.  So, how was I able to be more “real” and “vulnerable” with others?  First of all, I surrounded myself with people that really had my best interests in mind and were supportive and caring, even in my darkest times.  I also strived to forgive those who had hurt me somehow. For instance, I forgave several managers at work who I had bitterness and anger against for a long time. Since a lot of people respected them, I sometimes felt alone.  However, when I let go of my bitterness and start to consciously think good things about them, not only did I not feel alone anymore, my relationships with these managers also started to improve dramatically!  Also, in order to not feel lonely for a prolonged period of time, we must persevere in forging relationships with others, even though it may be difficult at times. People may irritate us, be rude to us, or treat us unkindly, but that doesn’t mean we should give up on relationships completely.  Also, God may want us to learn something, even if it is how not to be, from these rude or irritating people.

We were not created to be alone. That is why children and adults who are isolated from others for a long period of time, may have irrevocable damage and trauma from that experience. However, when we experience true unity among one another, we can find love, joy, fulfillment, and community in our lives that gives us purpose and hope for this hurting, broken world.

Source:

  1. Jenkins, Aric. (1 May 2018). Study Finds That Half of Americans — Especially Young People — Feel Lonely Fortune. Retrieved from: http://fortune.com/2018/05/01/americans-lonely-cigna-study/.
  2. Hedegaard, Holly, etal. , Centers For Disease Control and Prevention. (June 2018). NCHS Data Brief, 309. Retrieved from: https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/products/databriefs/db309.htm.

Keep on Fighting

The s-word.    It carries more judgment, stigma, and heartache than any other word in the English language.  Yet it affects more people than we care to realize or notice, but we dare not talk about it.  According to the National Institute of Mental Health in the U.S, in 2017, a whopping 9.8 million people have had serious thoughts about wanting to commit suicide. 

I can relate to those 9.8 million people.  Having struggled with depression for over half a century, I have had those same thoughts of suicide.  However, because of Jesus, He has pulled me through every one of those episodes and has never given up on me. Additionally, Jesus has provided me with a great support system that will listen to and help me through whenever I feel this way, without judgment or condemnation. 

Unfortunately, not everyone struggling right now has an adequate or a good support system. The good news is that, we can strive to be a support to at least some of those around us who are struggling right now. The good news is that if you are struggling right now, there are resources and people who want to encourage you and give you the hope and encouragement I got through Jesus and my support system as well.  I would also like to share some things that my support of family and friends have collectively taught and reiterated to me over the years when I feel like life is just too much:

You are a survivor!

Like me, you may have encountered people that have betrayed and abused you.  But, then, Jesus will give you strength to survive them or He will take them out of your life.  Keep on fighting!

Like me, you may feel that your efforts to succeed in life are never enough, and that you always fall short.  Don’t worry. Jesus will provide the strength you need to truly succeed—maybe not as the rest of the world sees “success,” but more importantly, how He sees success. Keep on fighting!

Like me, you may feel sometimes that no one truly cares for you, or really knows you.  But, then, Jesus brings people into your life that will prove you wrong.  So, keep on fighting!

Like me, you may feel disconnected from society or that you don’t belong anywhere.  Then, Jesus will provide His Church and/or those around you to remind you that you do impact their live and that you do share a part of their heart. Keep on fighting!

Whatever you are going through and wherever you are in life, don’t give up! I almost did, but I am glad that Jesus didn’t allow me to end it all, because I never would have known the blessing of redemption and love!

You are a survivor! Keep on fighting!

Sources:

https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics/suicide.shtml#part_154973

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

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.