Why What You Do Matters

Have you or someone you know ever thought that what you do for a living, the kind deed that no one ever even said “Thank you” to, or just anything you do in life doesn’t matter or won’t count for anything?  Well, there were times in my life when I felt that way.  However, this is a lie from the pit of darkness!  I know a lot of people go through life just “existing” because they feel no one gives a care about them.  And this is very sad. However, know that anything you do, whether good or bad, matters. Here’s why:

  1. There is are rewards and/or consequences to everything you do.–For instance, if you work hard at your job or at school, or whatever you do, in general, you will reap the rewards of so doing.  If you break the law, you will most likely end up in prison or at least have to pay a hefty fine. Even if you don’t see immediate reward, I believe it will come to you. You may have to be patient to see the reward or you may not get it in this life, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you won’t get rewarded in eternity.
  2. Everything you do affects, positively or negatively, at least one other person, if not more.–For instance, sometimes when I go to work and I feel discouraged and unappreciated, but I still try to work hard despite these feelings, some people still take notice. How do I know? I have had people come up to me and say good things about my work.  I don’t say this to brag about myself, but to show you that even when you don’t feel appreciated or loved, if you still strive to do your best, people will eventually take notice. The reverse is also true. When you do something bad, people take notice too. For instance, if you always yell at and are rude to people, other people who don’t even know you but hear about you, will either be more cautious around you or avoid you altogether.  So, I encourage everyone to do their very best, because it will affect someone–and someone will eventually take notice.
  3. Every little thing you do will build up or tear down your legacy (i.e. how you will be remembered after you die)–This goes along with points one and two, but everything you do either builds up or tears down what you want your legacy on earth to be. For instance, if I want to (and I do) carry Rachel’s torch and I compromise my morals because I wrongly think that it doesn’t matter what I do or say or that I will make little difference anyway, I would not only be disgracing Rachel’s legacy as a sold-out follower of Christ, but also ruining my legacy of how I would like to be remembered when I die and with what I will leave this world.  However, if I want to be like Jesus Christ, and I strive every day to be loving, forgiving and kind as he was, knowing that everything I do matters, then I will leave quite a different (and more positive) legacy than if I were to compromise who I am for the sake of temporary pleasures on this earth.  So, how do you want to be remembered after you die by your family, friends, and others that know you? What you do matters.

This is why everything you do matters, whether small or great.  So, if you have a job, work hard at it even if no one else seems to. Be different, stand out, and make a positive change in this world. If you are a student, study hard and do all your homework (or even go beyond what is required sometimes), even if 90% of your classmates don’t. Ghandi said, “Be the change you want to see in the world!” And I wholeheartedly agree!

On Loneliness and Love

Mother Teresa once said, in her book, A Simple Path: Mother Teresa,

“The greatest disease in the West today is not TB or leprosy; it is being unwanted, unloved, and uncared for. We can cure physical diseases with medicine, but the only cure for loneliness, despair, and hopelessness is love. There are many in the world who are dying for a piece of bread but there are many more dying for a little love. The poverty in the West is a different kind of poverty — it is not only a poverty of loneliness but also of spirituality. There’s a hunger for love, as there is a hunger for God.” (source: http://www.goodreads.com/quotes/139677-the-greatest-disease-in-the-west-today-is-not-tb)

And I totally agree with her. I am not discounting the pain and suffering felt by people afflicted with physical ailments or who are starving for food. However, if you are surrounded by a group of people who love and care about you during that period of suffering, you will most likely come out of the situation much stronger and be able to endure anything better, than if you have no one.  Also, if everything else is going fairly well for you, but you have no one with whom to share these accomplishments and triumphs, then you may begin to think life is pointless.

Loneliness and the feelings of being unwanted, unloved, and uncared for are the worst situations any human being or even animal can ever have to endure. This is because loneliness and feeling unloved, uncared for, and unwanted cut to the very depths of one’s soul. Here’s how we can combat these feelings if we feel them ourselves, and how we can help others who feel that way:

Combating loneliness and feeling rejected:

  1. Do something kind for someone else.—Often when I feel lonely or rejected, the best thing for me to do is to go out and do something kind for someone else. Usually, not as a means to an end, but as a kind of “side-effect” to our good deeds, when we do something kind for someone else, and they appreciate us in return (and sometimes, even when they don’t but you know in your heart you did right by them), we feel more connected to the recipient of our kindness. We open doors for people to want to get to know us better.
  2. See rejection, not as a personal failure on your part, but a chance to learn from mistakes and others.— For instance, when I was rejected for the chance to work at that bookstore, I learned quickly that this wasn’t where God wanted me.  Though I was discouraged for a long time because many people in my life had rejected me for even a friendship and found me difficult to get along with, God taught me through those painful experiences that a.) He was there for me and b.) To be more compassionate and loving to others who may also feel rejected and unloved by others (or even me).
  3. Get involved in your community, or even online.–To combat loneliness, do not become a hermit 24/7. Engage with others, and get involved in getting to know people around you. This could be the neighbors you live with, people who live in or near where you live in the greater community,  people at the religious institution where you worship,  or even people you interact daily with at your job, or where you most frequent outside your house.  Even though it’s not exactly the same, you can also get involved in online communities and form online friendships there.  It may be difficult to get initially involved.  For instance, when I switched church communities last year, I didn’t know many people there and I felt a bit uncomfortable at first. However, as time went on, I started to feel more at home and found that this was a good change for me. So, don’ t give up on a new community just because you feel uncomfortable or anxious at first.

Helping others who feel lonely or unloved:

  1.  Never give up on them.–Some people are difficult to handle. I get it. However, these same people may be reacting out of fear and anger at the larger society around them that has callously rejected them for something they can’t control such as their ethnicity, disability, or any other human identifier.  Understand that such people actually need extra love, not less of it.  I know sometimes investing in those people gets exhausting and tiring, but if you strive never to give up on those who hurt the most, most people will eventually see you as a friend and confidante, as opposed to an enemy.
  2. Intentionally reach out and care for them.–At work, sometimes I give encouraging notes to people who may need them. This is partly so that the people I work with will know that they are not alone and that someone out there gives a care and appreciates what positive things they have done. We should apply the same principle to those around us who feel lonely or rejected.  If they need to vent, listen with validation and compassion. You don’t need to “fix” their problems, but just listening to them can go a long way into showing them love and care. If the lonely person in your life needs help with something, offer to help whenever possible.  Be there for them, both in their trials and their triumphs. Be a friend.
  3. Always strive to be kind to them.--Be kind in your interactions with them by making them feel valuable and less alone.  If you fail to do this, be quick to apologize and make amends.  Include them in your interactions with others whenever appropriate.  Encourage them to cultivate the good personality traits that you find in that person or persons.  Try to prefer them over yourself.

There are many people in our lives who may feel lonely or unloved. Some of them are apparent to us, like someone who always sits alone at lunch.  However, some of them may seem to be surrounded by many people, but they feel empty inside and only have superficial interactions with others.  We need to be able to reach both groups with our love and compassion. If we do, we may just start a chain reaction. My wish and hope for this world is that eventually no one on this earth would ever have to feel alone and unloved again.

How To Be a Coffee Bean (or Change Your World)

This analogy/story is inspired by one of my managers at work who told us this following story (origin–unknown) to motivate us during a meeting we had:

One day, a mother wanted to teach her daughter a lesson, and so she told her daughter to buy these three ingredients: carrots, eggs and coffee beans. After the daughter bought these items, her mother told her to boil them and to tell her what happened.  So, after boiling these three items, this is what she told her mother: The carrots that were hard before they got boiled became soft after they were boiled. The eggs, which were previously soft, became hard, but the coffee beans stayed the same and permeated everything around them. 

Our manager told us not to be like the carrot which became soft under pressure (boiled). She told us not to be like the eggs, which hardened (became calloused) under pressure, but to be like the coffee beans that stayed the same under pressure and then permeated everything around them.  This concept, in Christian circles, is called “Being a Light,”  but can be applied to most anyone, regardless of belief. Here’s what I found are just three characteristics of people who positively change the world (i.e. “became a coffee bean”).

  1.  They invested in people.–These coffee bean-like people invested in others, not just themselves, or not just them and a few close family members and friends. This means they intentionally strove to positively interact with everyone around them.  This does not mean they succeed every time, but it also means they strive to make a positive impact on the majority they meet, not just a few people.  When I think of people like that, I think of all five of my faith heroes (for more on my faith heroes, see this post.), who inspired others to live their best life possible.  I think of my pastor, Pastor David Shoaf, who has served in the same church for over 40 years and has touched almost everyone he met there. I think of Chris* (NOT his real name) who makes sure people have time off work sometimes because he cares that people have families and lives outside the job and my manager Tom* (NOT his real name) who helps his workers succeed and strive for excellence every day.
  2. Be genuine.–What my faith heroes and coffee beans have in common are their genuineness. They both don’t change who they are because they are pressured to “fit in,” or because they “feel like it.” For instance, one of my faith heroes, Jesus Christ, did not change His purpose, mission, or personality just so that the Pharisees would like him. He always stayed true to His character. Also, another of my faith heroes, Rachel Scott, had lost all her friends due to her newfound faith in Christ. Even so, she was adamant about staying true to her belief and who she was, and not some tamed-down image of who her friends thought she should be. Never change who you are due to circumstances or people wanting to mold you into their own image of how you “should” be. Be true to yourself, while still willing to be open and teachable to change for the better, but change for your own reasons, not just another person’s.
  3. Stand Out.-Finally, and perhaps most importantly, in order to be a true world-changer or coffee bean, you have to stand out. Rachel Scott has been quoted in multiple sources as saying, ” I won’t be labeled as average.” In order to be a true coffee bean, you have to want to be better than average in your mentality and attitude towards life. That is, you can’t just blend in, be like everyone else, and/or do the minimum.  For instance, at work, one way I am trying to be a coffee bean is to work hard every day, and sometimes even volunteer to do extra work when I have the time and when needed, to help others. Moreover, I strive for excellence in my work, and not simply to get things done. Rachel Scott stood out by being kind to everyone around her, not just the people she looked up to or with who she got along well.  She even was kind to those boys who would later murder her, and also to those who were shunned, looked down upon, or made fun of by everyone else in her school or by society.

These are the three things everybody who is like a coffee bean have and examples of how one can imitate them. Coffee-bean like people always have a positive impact in this world, and sometimes it is very great! Resolve to be your best–Be a coffee bean today!

Things I Learned From the Movie “I’m Not Ashamed”

As of this writing (July 5, 2017–publication will come later), I watched the movie “I’m Not Ashamed.” Although it is slow in parts, this was a pretty good movie and has taught me some very important lessons in life. This movie is based on the true-life story of Columbine martyr, Rachel Scott, whose life of faith and love has inspired me to pattern my life after hers. I also consider her to be one of my five faith heroes I list on my blog’s front page.  Here’s what I learned about life through the telling of Rachel Scott’s story through this movie:

  1. Love, compassion, and perseverance go a long way.—Rachel’s love, compassion, and perseverance not only in this movie but also in her real life, have also inspired many (like me) to pattern their lives after hers.  For instance, Rachel sees a guy taking the pizza from her youth group and was looking standoffish, and then he quickly leaves. Instead of ignoring him, she follows him into the street where he incidentally was living and confronts him.  He later tells her that his name is Nate and to basically leave him alone. Knowing something is off about him, she persists and when he tries to steal food from a store to feed his ailing mom, she volunteers to pay for them with her meager paycheck.  She doesn’t just stop there but continues to show him love and compassion as he eventually accepts Christ and grows in his faith. He then ends up helping her through tough times too.  Also, when Rachel’s best friend Madison steals her then-boyfriend Alex, and Rachel catches them making out together, Rachel, by the end of the movie, ends up sending Madison a note of compassion and forgiveness for having betrayed her (Rachel).  Most people when betrayed would either try to take vengeance on the offender or stay away from them and cut off relations completely with them. However, Rachel persisted in showing kindness and forgiveness to Madison even after she was betrayed by Madison. By the end of the movie, Madison also is touched by the forgiveness and love Rachel showed her before she (Rachel) died.
  2. Christians are not perfect.–Rachel was not the perfect Christian. She got in trouble by drinking and smoking with her girlfriends and her attempts to pursue a popular, attractive guy in school put her in situations where she wasn’t comfortable.  She snuck out of her parents’ house–probably more than once. In the movie,  it was even shown that Rachel attempted suicide once by jumping off a bridge near her home because she was so depressed. This does not mean us Christians are  “bad” or “evil” people, but like everyone else, we come with problems and baggage. However, like I explained in #1,  Rachel picked the dust off her feet, so to speak, and tried to do better next time, just like we all do, regardless of belief or lack thereof.
  3. Everyone has a story.–In the movie, Rachel’s story was intertwined with those of her killers, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold. Also, there were snippets of the story of Nate, Alex, and several of Rachel’s friends. The point is, though, that everyone has a life story, and if we care about changing the world for the positive, we need to listen to these stories! Sure we can’t “fix” everyone’s problems, and we probably shouldn’t always be trying to either, but if we know where people are coming from and their life goals and motivation, maybe we can encourage and support them better.  Also, knowing other people’s stories helps us not only understand them better but also our own life story and how theirs can intersect beautifully with theirs.  For instance, I believe God is using the people I work with, especially one of my managers, to help create not only a better life story for me, but also for them as well.

Though no one is perfect or better than another human being, showing love and compassion like Rachel Scott did will go a long way to change our world for the better.  However, we must persevere even when life gets difficult in order to see results.  We must also learn others’ stories to help not only we understand them better, but also ourselves better. Be a light to this world; it may just start a chain reaction!

Things I Struggle With

DISCLAIMER: No negative comments about me (or others) allowed! I write this from a very vulnerable and raw place, but I would like to share this with you, so you can learn from my struggles and mistakes, and not repeat the same stuff. There is, of course, some religious content, but nothing preachy I hope. Thank you for understanding and reading.

As I wrote in a previous post, no one is perfect, and there is beauty in imperfection. I believe God can use even my mistakes for His glory and purposes, and I believe He can use yours too! So, even when a mistake is pointed out to you, try not to give up on yourself or others.  It does not mean you are a mean, evil person, and it does not mean you are worthless. Even if someone unlovingly says so, this is not true. God and I see beauty and preciousness in you, even when you don’t see it in yourself. Here are some things that I personally struggle with in my life, and how I (and others struggling with similar things ) can improve:

  1. Patience—I half-jokingly say to myself that this is the Last Fruit (on fruits see Galatians 5:22-23) of the Spirit that will develop fully in me. I struggle with this so much because I have much anxiety about having to wait for certain things.  Sometimes, I wrongly think that if I have to wait for something, I will wait so long that it won’t happen anymore. I sometimes get upset in traffic if I have to wait for something because I have this fear that if I have to wait too long, I will be late for work (or wherever I have to get to).  For people like me who struggle in this area, I would recommend a few things. a.) If you are religious, trust God. He always works for the good of those who love Him. He will always turn bad situations into redeemable ones!  b.) Ask yourself: What is the worst that can happen if I wait for this? Chance are they are either not as bad as you think, or they are “fixable.” c.) Set “waiting” goals for yourself.- For instance, if I have to wait for a promotion until there is an opening, I would tell myself to wait until the end of a certain month before I do anything about it or ask my supervisor what is going on.  If you can wait a little while, chances are you can wait longer too.
  2. Being a people-pleaser-—When I was younger, I received so much invalidation from my peers (and even some teachers!), that I thought I was worthless and unacceptable.  I thought if I could even get one person to accept me for who I was, including my flaws and idiosyncrasies, that would have been great! About twenty years later, I still struggle with this concept of feeling accepted and loved for who I am.  Yesterday, one of the pastors at my church told me in so many words that I don’t need to be accepted and loved by everyone to be happy, that God already accepts me for who I am and loves me deeply.   That put the light on for me. I hope that you know that too, and even if you are not religious, that you also know that you are loved and accepted by others. Maybe you won’t be accepted by everyone, but I believe you are loved and accepted by at least one person. Also, never compromise your beliefs or personality just to get someone else to love and accept you.  Be the person you were created to be. There is a light in you! Never forget how valuable you are!
  3. Selfishness– I strive not to only think of myself, but of others. However, sometimes I do fail at that, to my disadvantage.  Ways I try to combat this that have worked for me are a.) I try to intentionally do something good for someone else, especially for someone who is struggling, without asking or expecting something from them in return.  b.) I try to understand and sympathize with what another person is going through. c.) I try to validate others. This is different from trying to flatter someone to get something out of them, rather this is a genuine attempt to show love and appreciation for another’s beliefs, thoughts and/or feelings. Validating someone shows the person that you think what they are telling you is not only important but appreciated as well.
  4. Negative thinking—I usually struggle the most with having negative thoughts when I am stressed, angry or depressed. When I am especially angry with myself, I almost immediately go into self-hate mode. For example, I don’t just tell myself, ” Why did you do that, [my name here]?” but, “You ruined your testimony! What are people going to think of you now? You’re useless to God and to everyone else. Why don’t you just run away so you don’t become a burden to others?” If I am angry at a situation or person, I wrongly want to a.) avoid dealing with the situation or person because it is just too much for me at that moment. This becomes an issue when the person wants to confront me on said situation immediately. I need time to process, otherwise, I may say or do things I regret later.  b.) My day is ruined because all I am thinking about is how angry or hurt I am by that person or situation. c.) I become so depressed, I tend to isolate and not want interaction with anyone, especially people who want to give me unsolicited advice or invalidate me more.   I am going to be really honest and say that I have a really hard time applying any of these to my life because when I am in this mode I literally cannot think straight!  However, the following may work for me in the future (I’m still trying) and to some of you: a.) When you need time to process the situation and/or anger you feel from someone, and the person wants to “resolve” it right now or wants to somehow confront you, say to that person, in as calm manner as you can muster, “Could we talk about this later? I need time to cool down and process my emotions. Please respect that. Thank you.” b.) Try to distract yourself from the negative thoughts by doing something that requires mind engagement, even if you don’t feel like doing it.  Also, if you are angry and you want to distract yourself from blowing up at someone or hurting someone, I would invest in a fidget spinner. That way your mind is engaged in a toy, instead of on negativity.  I plan to buy one for myself soon.  c.) Try to reframe your thoughts. For instance, if I did something wrong, and my self-talk is that I’m useless to God and everyone else, I could counter with truth and tell myself: God can still use my mistakes. He even used Abraham, who lied twice about his wife Sarah to save his own skin and disobeyed Him by not going to where he (Abraham) was supposed to be, to be his prophet! (Story: see Genesis 15-20 ) I just need to be humble enough to admit my mistake and do better next time. He still can do great things through me.

These are the main things I struggle with in my life. Of course, there are others too, but these are the main ones. I hope that by posting this, I will not only be held accountable to myself to improve but also to help others struggle with the same or similar issues.  What issues do you struggle with?  What can we do to help, or how would you advise someone struggling with the same thing(s)? Please feel free to comment.

A Letter to My 15-Year Old Self

DISCLAIMER: No negative comments about me allowed! This was mostly written three years ago, with some obvious recent edits. This is a very raw post for me, so please be sensitive in your comments. Thank you.  Also, this post deals with issues of depression, Eating Disorders and verbal abuse, so if that triggers you, please feel free to skip and read another post.

 

To my 15-year-old self:

 

Dear me,

I know you feel depressed and lonely. I know you feel that there is no hope for your life anymore. I know the bad memories of four years ago when you almost destroyed yourself by half-starving yourself and when you had no friends still dog your mind and soul.  I know that guy that told you recently that you would never drive, never amount to anything at all etch in your very soul.  I know you don’t have many people that you would consider a “friend.”  You see your immediate family (your dad, mom, and sibling) seemingly joyous and glad. But you wonder where “that zest, that greatness life is supposed to hold” is for you.

But please don’t despair. Don’t give up! I know you only have a handful of people that even want to talk to you at school at length and that you consider your buddies, if that. But you want a friend, a real friend. A friend that will give more than just an obligatory card or present on your birthday or on Christmas! A friend that will invite you to things and make you feel included. A friend that will not leave you even if you tell him or her all the sordid details of your past, even if you’re being selfish or just not being a good friend to them in general.  But, you know that teacher that is sometimes saying “hi” to you in the hallway and has a reputation for being nice? Well, she will become one of your good friends in the future.  Also, you will meet a better friend than even her in the future. His name? Jesus Christ. He will not only be your friend—He will be your Lord and Savior! He will never leave you. He will always be with you. He will forgive you for even your worst mistakes and moral failures. Because of your relationship with Jesus, you will have a loving and supportive church family (friends, if you prefer) and even many other people of all ages that will want to get to know you. The REAL you.

And your driving? You will be able to drive on your own to and from work with your car (which by the way won’t be your dream job and it will be rather far away from where you’re living now, but you will be content even in that job). You will be able to drive with confidence!  So, don’t listen to or take to heart what that guy that told you that you would never amount to anything and that you wouldn’t be able to drive. He’s not god and he’s not your future! Please don’t give up on your dream that one day you will be able to drive alone, and be joyful and fulfilled in life. Because though it seems out of reach, miracles can and will happen!

More importantly, because of Jesus, you will have purpose and meaning in your life that you never had before! You will love and serve Him! So, I urge you to keep searching for “that zest, that greatness that life is supposed to hold.”  Because you will find it!

Love,

Me (at 34)

 

Afterword: (to the readers): Please call 1-800-273-8255  (Suicide hotline) if you or someone you know is having suicidal thoughts. It can save a life.  Also, if you are feeling depressed or don’t know where your life is headed, please know that there is always hope as long as you are alive and you try your best. I hope my story will inspire you to not give up when things get tough because your pain will not last forever (even though it may seem that way) and joy and hope will once again permeate your life if you persevere.

How to Forgive

As we go on through life, we will meet many people, some of who will hurt us sooner or later, both intentionally and unintentionally. However, I believe in order to live a joyful and successful life, one of the lessons we must learn is how to forgive others.  There are a few people, sadly, who never learn this lesson and carry their bitterness, not only to their other relationships, but more seriously…to their graves.  Here are some ways that I have personally learned about on how to forgive others, genuinely and/or completely:

  1. Deal with the pain and the hurt the other person or people caused.—Some people, in an attempt to “forgive” or excuse the person that hurt them, try to sweep their feelings under a rug, so to speak, and try to willingly “forget” about the pain the person had caused. I have three words for this method of coping. Does. NOT. work! I have found that the more I try to forget about something, the more my mind conjures up the very thing I’m trying to forget! A more effective way of coping is to deal with the pain and hurt the other person or people caused. Healthy ways of doing this include writing a letter to the offender (that you will not send) chronicling all your angry and hurt feelings towards him or her and then burning it or tearing it up afterwards for release, crying, writing angry poetry about the situation,  talking to a trusted friend not involved in the hurtful situation, talking to a counselor or therapist,  exercising your anger and hurt out, praying for them (if you are religious or spiritual).
  2. Pray and/or think good things about the person who offended you.–This is very difficult sometimes, especially if the person who hurt you is an abuser or hurt you in another very grievous way.  However, in order to forgive, we must make an effort to think about at least one thing good about that person. If you are spiritual, I would recommend praying blessings for that person.  For instance, when someone had hurt me emotionally, I tried to pray to God for them to be blessed in their job and in their general life. I also thanked God for their good qualities I had observed in them in getting to know them. Whether you are spiritual or not, I would try to think about several positive qualities you have personally observed in that individual or those individuals that hurt you.
  3. Don’t wait until you “feel” like forgiving to forgive someone. –Some people wait until the “time is just right” to forgive someone. The problem is that the time is never “just right.” Also, forgiveness is an act of the will. You just have to do it!  Yes, one may not have forgiving feelings towards someone, but resolve to do it anyway.  The feeling of freedom and renewed joy will come in time.
  4. Forgive for you, not for the other person.–This may seem selfish, but if you try to forgive someone for them alone, it will be harder to forgive because we are hardwired to think that if someone does something wrong, they should suffer the consequences for it.  Forgiveness always goes to those who don’t deserve it. When that fact and our quest for justice clash,  we may find it nigh impossible to forgive. However, when we forgive to free ourselves of the pain and hurt that that person caused, it becomes more motivating for us to forgive.
  5. Intentionally try to do good for the person who hurt you.–DISCLAIMER: If the person in question is abusive or extremely manipulative, or if they are deceased, this does not apply!  For all other situations, you should strive to act against the feelings of resentment and anger you have towards that other person and intentionally do good for that person.  For instance, if the person said something hurtful to you and you were angry, try to intentionally say something kind about them to their face.  Don’t say something “fake” nice or that you don’t really mean; people can tell the difference. Say something genuinely kind about them.

These are some ways you can forgive someone who has hurt you, effectively and genuinely. If the offender in question is not sorry for their hurtful actions, you don’t have to excuse their actions, but still treat them with kindness and grace. However, be careful not to give your trust to them until they repent and make amends for their hurtful actions. However, we should strive to forgive and treat everyone with grace, not because they deserve it, but because our world will be a much better place.

What I Learned From the Movie, Miracles From Heaven

DISCLAIMER: Contains movie spoilers!, sources: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Miracles_from_Heaven_(film)

Last Sunday night, my mom offered to watch a movie with me that she thought I’d like. It was called “Miracles From Heaven.” Wanting to spend a little quality time with her, I agreed. It turned out to be one of the best movie decisions I’ve ever made in my life! I learned so much from this movie about how to live life, and here are some of the main lessons I learned from that movie:

  1. Sometimes you have to go through the storms (i.e: pain) in order to see the sunshine (i.e the miracle or blessing). –10 year old Annabel (Anna) Beam started experiencing vomiting, intense stomach pains, and almost died, before being miraculously cured of her illness after falling into a hollow tree hole.  In the movie, Anna is depicted at one point as wanting to die because her pain is so intense. She no longer cared about life and became very depressed. However, after she was saved, life had a new purpose. However, if Anna had never gotten sick, she wouldn’t have seen God’s grace intervening in her desperate situation.
  2. Live life as if everything is a miracle.–Near the end of the movie, Christy Beam (played by Jennifer Garner), Anna’s mother, begins before telling about Anna’s miraculous recovery by saying, “Albert Einstein is quoted as saying, ‘You have two choices as to how to live your life. Live as if nothing is a miracle, OR live as if everything is a miracle.’ ” Because Christy’s daughter’s life was saved, Christy began to see everything as a miracle and as precious, because she almost lost her beloved daughter and almost lost her faith in the process!  I can relate to this too, as I almost lost my life three years ago when the doctors found out that I had an enlarged gallbladder (She said it was twice the normal size! ) and that I had gallstones. If that gallbladder had burst, and I had waited longer to go to the ER, I would have most likely not be here writing in this blog today! More on this story, go here.  God suddenly reminded me of this event after I watched this movie and remembered the quote about living as if everything were a miracle.  Today, I remembered that quote as I was going about my work at my job and felt really joyful because I had remembered and realized just how blessed I am to be here and to be able to meet all the wonderful people at my job. Truly, everyone I have met, especially those that I have known for less than three years or had helped me through my illness is a testament to my miraculous life!
  3. Be grateful for all those people in your life that helped you succeed or get you through life .—In the movie, Christy pays tribute to all those who helped her and her daughter Anna through her (Anna’s) illness. She thanks Angela, the waitress who befriends Christy and Anna and walks them through the ordeal so they would not have to suffer alone. She thanks Dr. Nurko who treats Anna, and the receptionist who barters for a last-minute opening for her (Anna) despite her mother not having an appointment for her.  She thanks a guy friend at Anna’s school who temporarily abandons his other friends to befriend Anna so she does not feel alone in her illness.  She thanks the guy at the ticket counter who lets Anna’s father and her siblings go on the plane free, so they can see her at the hospital.  Christy does this not to gain attention, and not because she is some holy-roller, but because she realizes that she and Anna couldn’t have made it alone.  I can certainly relate too. For instance, if it had not been for the many doctors, nurses, and the surgeon who operated on me in 2014, I would not be here today. Also, I want to give a shout out to my parents, sibling, and my friend K who came to see me a few days after surgery so I wouldn’t feel alone.  Without all these people and more in my life, I wouldn’t be where or who I am today. So, thank you everyone. And I especially want to thank God, who I firmly believe made this all possible!

This is just some of what I learned in the movie, “Miracles From Heaven.” It’s a great movie; I highly recommend it.  (If you would like to purchase this movie, please go to the links in my “recommendations” section. ) It may be slow in parts, and it may not be for everyone, but if you want to live your life with more passion or purpose, this movie is a great supplement to get you thinking about life more deeply.

Why We Should Strive Not To Hate People

Disclaimer: No negative or hateful comments or your comment will be deleted!  Also, “hate” here means bitter animosity or unforgiveness towards someone. It does not  mean you’re just angry or hurt by someone or someone’s actions, as in an abusive situation. Also, one can hate someone’s actions, but still not hate the person. This is a very important distinction!

What images or pictures do your mind conjure when you see or hear the word “hate”? Is it a vegetable that you despise, such as Brussel sprouts (for some people)? Does it conjure up images of the devil? A particular thing or place? Or a person that hurt you recently or in the past? If one of the images that comes up in your mind when you think of the word “hate” is  of a person or persons, I would recommend you examine yourself and/or the situation more closely.  I’m not saying that the person who you may be thinking of doesn’t deserve your hatred, but that it may be a bad idea for you to harbor hatred towards him or her. Here’s why I think it’s a bad idea to harbor hatred towards any person in your life:

  1. It hampers your relationship with other people.–I found that when people, including me, harbor hatred or deep-seated unforgiveness towards someone, every other relationship you have is seen through that hateful lens. Not only are you more likely to be less trusting of the person you hate, but also at everyone else in your life as well, even if they are not even on their side or don’t know that person that you hate! One of the most damaging things hate can do is hamper your ability to open up and be vulnerable to other people, because of the lack of trust that develops as a result of your hatred towards a particular person or persons, and the thinking that inevitably creeps up that others may be taking your enemy’s side.
  2. It isolates you.–When you hate someone, it closes you off from not only the person in question, but also from potential friends–both from their and your circles of influence. For instance, a prejudiced person who hates a certain race or ethnicity will close themselves off from ever getting to know or forming a lasting, solid friendship with a person from that race or ethnicity, or anyone who supports such a friendship. When you isolate from people, you are more susceptible to depression and loneliness.
  3. It doesn’t allow you to deal with and heal from your pain.–When you choose to harbor hatred or unforgiveness towards someone, it hampers your ability to understand the situation or person you now hate. When you hate someone, there is a natural impulse to want to just react and/or hurt them back. What we fail to realize when we take vengeance is that it isn’t really solving the problem that created the hateful and spiteful feelings in the first place. It is just exacerbating them! What one should do instead is to deal with the angry or hateful feelings in a healthier way. One way to do that is to write a letter that you won’t send to the person you hate or with whom you are angry. You can spew out all the stuff that you have stored inside your heart in this letter. It can be as short or as long as you want. Then, when you are done, allow yourself to feel the pain and the hurt for a determined length of time (not too short, not too extensive either).  Then, after all that, you decide and tell yourself and/or God or another neutral party that you are going to forgive this person! (More on how to forgive in another post). This is not because this person “deserves” it, but so you can be free of the hateful and hurtful influence that this person has had on you, and you can move on with your life!
  4. It stunts your growth as a person.–When you choose to hate someone, what in essence you are saying to him or her, besides that you hate him or her, is that you refuse to learn from that person.  When we refuse to learn from others, we are stunting our own growth and development as a person.  For instance, if I hated a particular boss at work (Just for your information, I don’t hate any of my bosses at work.),  I would not only try to avoid them, but refuse to listen to anything they’re saying to me or try to learn anything from them, even if it were useful for me.  This is because when one is consumed with hatred, he or she is not open to counsel or any other positive contribution that the hated person may have potentially provided for him or her had he/she not hated this person. However, if we strive to love and get to know others, even the ones that are sometimes rude or unkind to us, we can still learn from them.  This does not mean that we cannot avoid people that are a real threat to our health or safety. We probably should avoid those people! However, if we distinguish between hating the person and the behavior and only hate their behavior, it will make it easier on us to be able to learn, at the very least, what not to do than if we are consumed with utter hatred. Consistently learning and growing as people by developing our character is what sets us up to be truly successful as people.  If we hate others, we severely limit that growth.

This is why hating people is so harmful to us, not just to our enemies.  We should always hate morally wrong behaviors, especially if they hurt others in the process, but we should strive never to hate another human being! No, we don’t have to like everyone and be buddy-buddy with them, but we do  have to strive to love everyone. That is, we don’t have to enjoy being with everyone, and because we are human there will be some people who rub us the wrong way, but we do have to strive to treat each person with dignity and respect that comes with being a created being.

3 Gifts I Want to Give the World

When people think of getting gifts, people usually think of things that can be bought in stores. While they can be nice and/or very exciting to get (I know I get excited for just this reason on either my birthday or Christmas!), their novelty usually doesn’t last long and sometimes you even get tired of the gift, and it either gets donated or (sadly) gets thrown away.  However, these 3 gifts that I want to give the world cannot be bought in stores anywhere! In fact, if anyone tried to buy these things with money for me, I would be highly offended!  Also, unlike gifts that can be bought in stores, if given in a genuine way, these gifts’ novelties never get old! Here they are:

1.) God’s love—There are so many people in this world that are so hungry for love, any kind at all. I see love-starved children begging for any type of love from their parents, even causing trouble to get it, and some of them only get abuse and insults in return.  I see love-starved adults either acting out or trying to do “good works” just so that someone will notice and care for them. What I strive to do everyday, even though at times I stumble and fail, is to show and thus, give God’s love to everyone I encounter.

In 1 Corinthians 13: 4-7, it says, ” Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. (ESV)  

God’s love is how it is described in 1 Corinthians 13: 4-7, and I want to mirror His love to others so they will feel the same joy and love I felt when God gave me His love (and still does every single day!). I’m still working on the “patient” part, as I admit I am not a patient person, but I do strive to be kind to others every day. I never ever want to reject someone who wants my love, because I know all too well how rejection feels like. I always want to be able to believe in people, unless they show me they are not to be believed or trusted so that they know that not only I but also God feels the same way about them. I have found that when someone loves me SO much that no matter what I do or say to them, they have the general attitude of “I will never give up on you,” I am more motivated to give my very best to them. That is how I want to be to others.  I also want to rejoice with those who have found God’s love in me and others and help cultivate the same love in themselves, so they, in turn, can love others in that way and “pay it forward,” so to speak.

2.) Affirmation–Many people in this world are so invalidated, they feel like they have nothing left to give to this world. To invalidate someone basically means to render what one has to say or do as “unimportant” or even “worthless.” I have experienced invalidation one too many times. Even when I was at my darkest, instead of affirming and comforting me, some people in my life invalidated me. I now know that many of them didn’t do this on purpose, and I forgive them, but we as a society need to do a better job of affirming people.  One way you can affirm people is by starting to notice what they do well, and telling them that. Be specific in your praise. Another way to affirm someone is when they are going through something tough to tell them that they are already doing the best they can (if they are, which is often the case) and to encourage them to not only persevere through it, but promise that you will be there for them. Never make that an empty promise, but actually commit to invest in them, especially in their time of need.  I never want to make someone feel worthless or unloved by the words I say. Oh, yes, sometimes I do fail miserably at this, but when I remember the affirmations that I have received from God and other people around me, I pick myself back up and aim to better affirm them next time.

3.) Hope–Some people in my life, either online or in real life, have been so bogged down by problems and issues in their personal life, that they often feel hopeless or despondent. Sometimes, I admit I feel the same way, not because I don’t know God or His great love, but because I forget about Him because I only can see my problems, not what He’s doing through them.  I want to help others to always know that there is still hope for them, as long as they are alive! By giving the first two gifts to all those around me, I hope they will release the third gift–hope. I hope (no pun intended) that I can give people the hope that there is still good left in this world, and not just people out to stab each other in the back, so to speak, or not just those who hurt others on purpose.  I hope I can give people the resolve and the courage they need to continue persevering in their lives, but this time with purpose and joy.

These are the three gifts that I want to give the world. As you can see, you can’t buy it in stores like JcPenney or Walmart, or in any other stores. You must manufacture these in your own hearts. Which three gifts do you want to give to the world? Why? Please feel free to discuss this in the comments.