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

Lessons Learned in the Dark of Depression

Image by Enrique Meseguer from Pixabay

For over 25 years, I have gone in and out of the throes of depression. During my worst episodes, I seriously considered ending my life. Thankfully, every time I wanted to give up, God rescued me out of the pit of despair and helped me see His love and light. Even though I would have preferred to not go through the darkness for so long, and though I had wanted to give up so many times, I am thankful that God taught me so many valuable life lessons that I now strive to apply to my life:

Image by Myriam Zilles from Pixabay

One lesson I learned from going through depressive episodes is to be more open and genuine with others in expressing my true self. In the past, I was so afraid of what people would think of me, that I never told anyone for a long time about my struggles, past and present. Unfortunately, I got so used to hiding that when I finally decided needed help with my issues, some people thought I really didn’t have those issues! However, the longer I struggled, the more apparent it became to me that I needed to talk to someone about my issues, and more than likely, several people.

Then, I started to talk. I began opening up the layers of my pain in my past. What I realized is that many of the people I opened up to struggled with similar issues! Also, I didn’t get most of the judgment or condemnation I had feared, and those that judged me were often the same ones that God would later remove from my life anyway. When I started opening up and being vulnerable with others, not only did I forge stronger bonds with those around me, but I found that the pain I went through in my depression lessened, as I started to heal.

Another lesson I learned from going through depression is to be value my time– especially the good, depression-free times– more. When I am depressed, I can only see the wounds and ugliness of myself and life. I feel like I am in a long, dark tunnel with no end to it. However, when I am content with life and glance back at (but not dwell) on my depressive episodes, I realize how blessed I am! Reflecting back causes me to value and appreciate the good times more, because I see how far God has brought me from the darkness of the worst of my depressive episodes.

Image by mohamed Hassan from Pixabay

The most pertinent lesson that God has taught me from going through depression, in my mind, is that He had a purpose and a plan for allowing me to walk in the dark for so long. I have learned that God has been using my struggle with depression, and the past hurts that had exacerbated my depression, to help me minister to others with similar or even more complex issues than I ever had!  He has also used my struggle with depression to help me be more compassionate and caring towards others in pain, and in order to strengthen my character by tearing down the layers of selfishness and self-righteousness in my heart.

If anyone is struggling with depression or suicidal thoughts right now, know that God has a good purpose for all you have been through. We may never know what it is this side of the world, but God never wastes our pain.  Let this be our hope to never give up no matter what life brings us.

Image by brigachtal from Pixabay

How Jesus Has Saved and Redeemed Me

written April 16, 2019

Image by John Hain from Pixabay

Sunday night, after a snowstorm had ended for the day, I realized how much pain and anguish Jesus had gone through for us—for me, during the last hours of His life, 2,000 years ago, as my pastor relayed the excruciating details of what Jesus had suffered.  Over the past few weeks, I confess there had been so much stress going on in my life that I had lost sight of God’s presence and even love for me.   However, as I look back over my entire life, I realize that Jesus had not only saved and redeemed me through His sacrifice 2,000 years ago, but also through various people and events in my life.  As I look forward to celebrating Easter, I want to remind you—and myself—of God’s saving grace, not only for my sake, but also for yours, so that you will remember how God has been good to you and how blessings have poured into your life. 

This is my story, but more importantly, it is His!

On April 9, 1999, I wrote these despairing words in a journal, “I wish I could be more […] effervescent (lively). I feel dead without being physically killed. I hope I don’t die emotionally, but I am dying. If I could only find that zest, that greatness life is supposed to hold. But where is it, at least in me?”  At that time, I was feeling very restless and felt like something was missing from my life. Tired of all the pretense around me in my life and feeling like I couldn’t relate to the lyrics of most popular songs, I began searching for deeper music.  That is when I was led by God to a Christian radio station that played songs in the popular style I liked, but also had deeper lyrical meaning for me.  Through that, God used this longing for something “more” in my life to lead me into a Christian bible study group at a public school I attended.  Some months later, I accepted Christ as my Lord and Savior.

God has also saved my literal, physical life several times as well.  When I was struggling most severely with depression and suicidal thoughts, each time He reached out to me and prevented me from doing the unthinkable. 

Also, on June 14, 2014, after having been hospitalized already a month before for food poisoning, I had to be hospitalized again. (For the whole story on how and why, please visit this page. ) I had been throwing up blood earlier that morning, and I knew something was wrong, so I went to the ER.  I found out later that I had to have gallbladder surgery because my gallbladder was twice the size it should have been, was inflamed, and I had several gall stones!  Thankfully, I had gone to the ER in time because if I had waited longer, I may not have been here on earth today. God was definitely a part of the timing in this and in guiding the successful surgery by my surgeon.

Then, about four years later, there was a severe blizzard ensuing outside.  Many associates had called in sick at my current job, and because I was feeling bad for one of the managers that worked overnight, I wanted to help him.  He had so much work to do, with not enough people to do it. I had worked from 2 pm, and my shift was supposed to end at 10 pm. However, I planned to work another shift to help him out.  However, when this manager, let’s call him *Chris,  realized that I lived more than a few minutes away from work, he told me, “I care about my associates.” and told me in so many words that he would rather have me safely home than me worrying about him getting the work done and possibly have an accident by going home later, when the storm was more severe.  I sensed that God was telling me to listen to Chris, and I did. I not only was able to get home at a decent time, I had to call off the next day because the weather was so bad! Thankfully, God moved in Chris to care about my safety, and thus He used Chris to save my life!

Another way, Jesus has redeemed me is by providing me hope and purpose in serving Him.  When I was struggling to find lasting work, He provided me activities at my now-former church, like the food pantry and the clinic, to be able to serve the needs of others.  By serving at the food pantry and the clinic at my now-former church, my eyes were opened to the pain and the needs of others.  I saw people find hope and purpose, as they were being served by my fellow volunteers and me. I saw Jesus work through both ministries in powerful ways, as many people felt loved and cared for by the volunteers there. It was there that I also met some of the most genuine, loving, and caring people, including one of my friends, Laura,* that now attends the church which I am now a member. 

After that, through my mentor J, and others, I was able to get my first stable job about six years ago.  There, I learned much about customer service, which I strive to apply to my current job.  God also led me to see every day as an opportunity to minister to those around me—both customers and co-workers alike.

Then,  about three years ago, on a cold, wintry February day, I got my current job, being hired by one of my now-former managers, Chris*(Yes, he is the same one that helped save my physical life in February 2018!) , and several months later, Hope,* one of my managers, promoted me to full-time.  God has used this job, not only to help me serve Him better, but also to continually mold and shape me, and so He could tear away the layers of my selfishness and pain of having been bullied by peers and others growing up.  I am also constantly able to learn new things about how to serve customers better and to be a better person, personality-wise. 

A few months before I got my current job, on December 2015, I started the blog, “God’s Whisperings.” From there, God led me to engage with other like-minded individuals in a blogging group. He also gave me a vision to start this blog as a way to teach others what I have learned from Him, so that they would know His love and goodness in their own lives as well.   About a few months ago, I was led by God to join a local writing group, as a way to, not only have a concentrated time to continue to write, but also to learn from others.

Finally, Jesus has saved and redeemed me through various trials, because without them, I would not be the person I am today.  Before I got my current job, I applied and got interviewed for a job at a local bookstore that just opened.  This was what I had considered one of my “dream jobs.” However, I quickly learned during the interview that I was not a good fit for that job.  I felt very disappointed, and slightly despairing, until I interviewed for my current job in February of 2016!  Had I had gotten that job at the bookstore, I don’t know how long I would have lasted, or if I would have learned as much as I have at my current job.

Jesus also saved and redeemed me through failed friendships and relationships.  He saved me from several people who did not have my (or His) best interests in mind, and who betrayed my trust.  Jesus saved me from those who would have hurt me if they had been in my lives much longer.  Finally, Jesus continues to redeem my life, through the changes I am currently experiencing, including the redemption of several friendships and relationships that I thought were doomed forever.  You can read about one of them here.

As we celebrate Jesus’ resurrection this Sunday (for those that are Christians),  let’s remember what God has done in our lives to bring us to where we are today, and for the blessing it is that He is alive and working in us today!  Thank God for not only His salvation, but also for the plenty of times He has redeemed us in our lives!

Image by Dawn Sinclair from Pixabay

My Journey Out of Darkness

*=all names have been changed for privacy reasons

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), in 2016, approximately 16.2 million adults have suffered from depression, and approximately 3.1 million teens suffered from depression in the same year (1). In 2016, though I still struggled with depression, at times, I was much better than I was in the past.  In fact, depression is something that I have struggled with since I was about ten years old.  If you struggle today or have struggled in the past with depression, you are not alone.

As I said earlier, my depression started in my childhood. Though I may have appeared to most people to be the traditional, happy, go-lucky child, I constantly struggled with making lasting friendships with my peers, and because of certain quirks I had, some of my peers would even bully me relentlessly and  mock me by pretending to be my friend, before I knew of their real intentions.  Because of this, as I got older, I trusted people less.  However, as attested by a fellow classmate, I was very difficult to get along with, probably because of my rigidity and selfishness.  I wanted things done right and my way, but because I didn’t really know how to accommodate or listen to other people’s views, no one wanted to really pay attention or work with me. As a result of this rigid personality, combined with my peers’ bullying and lack of understanding, I often felt lonely, bored, and depressed. I desperately wanted to “fit in,” but I didn’t know exactly how to go about this.

Then, I grew up. I no longer was as rigid and self-centered, but the years of being bullied and teased had taken its toll.  I had grown so paranoid of people that in my senior year of high school, I was dubbed “most paranoid.”  I still struggled to make close friends, as people had already settled in their cliques by then, and I felt like I really didn’t belong anywhere.   Also, during this time, in addition to my depression, which had gotten a bit worse at this time, I also struggled with other mental health issues that almost sent me to the hospital! I wanted to be a successful person, both academically, and eventually financially, but I felt it was never good enough for either myself, my parents, or anyone else.

In March through mid April 1999, I suffered verbal abuse at the hands of one of my instructors. This instructor basically had said, in so many words, that I would not amount to much in my life, and sadly, for many years, I believed him.  In fact, I had so unconsciously internalized his searing words of condemnation that this had resulted in me contemplating, more than once, ending my life. In fact, on April 7, 1999, I had written in my diary, “I wish I could be more […] effervescent (lively). I feel dead without being physically killed. I hope I don’t die emotionally, but I am dying. If I could only find that zest, that greatness life is supposed to hold. But where is it, at least in me?”

A few months later, God gave me His answer by rescuing me from some of my self-destruction, and I finally found hope in Him. I accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior.  Slowly, but surely, with God’s help, I would climb out of the pit of darkness and despair.

I didn’t get out the pit immediately, though. In fact, it took awhile. However, by the time I started college, I was beginning to open up to people and develop closer relationships, which, most of them unfortunately have faded. However, I will never forget their kindness and understanding to me during the years I was there.  I changed my major from biology to writing and publishing (one major) and Spanish (my second major).  However, even though I graduated with honors from the college, I had an incredibly tough time finding a job in my field, and I was beginning to fear that my instructor from high school was right–that I wouldn’t amount to much in this life.

It was during this time that I really searched for my specific purpose and call in this life. I tried many jobs and volunteer opportunities that I thought I could do, but most of the jobs weren’t the right fit for me. I was beginning to get discouraged again, until I met my mentor J. After meeting J, about several months later, I started trying to find jobs that were better suited to my abilities and interests.  After about six months, I found the first job that suited me well.  However, after almost three years, I felt God leading me to somewhere else. 

I had applied at a bookstore that was opening about twenty five minutes from where I lived.  I was ecstatic about finally getting an interview after applying the second time. However, the day of the interview came, and I quickly found out that I wasn’t a good fit for that job.  My worst fears were confirmed after they hadn’t called me back after several days and later told me that they had moved on to other candidates.  I became discouraged again, but didn’t give up finding a job. 

Then, several weeks later, on February 25, 2016, I was at my current workplace, and wanted to check the status of my resume, since they hadn’t contacted me for several days.  So, I talked to the HR coordinator, and she then scheduled an interview for me at 1 pm. Since I don’t live that close to my current job, I had no time to change into better “interview” clothes,  and then I went back at about that time and was interviewed by Chris* who later became my manager too.  I did not know it at the time, but the fact that Chris was willing to hire me partly helped me to recover from the depressive funk that I had suffered from for so many years!

During the next six months, many changes happened to my family and me. My brother moved out to go to school in another part of the country, where he has been living ever since.  I also felt called to move to a different church. I began to take my blog that I had started in December 2015 more seriously.  These changes, which may have left many people frazzled and/or depressed, actually brought me joy and opportunities that I may never have had if these changes did not occur.

I also faced a big change at work.  I was talking to another manager, Hope*, one September in 2016, when she and I discussed about the possibility of me being full time at my company. She agreed that I should be full-time, and then she changed my status to be full time on September 9, 2016. That was one of the happiest days of my life! Even people that knew me well didn’t think I’d ever be able to be full-time, so I was surprised, but also grateful for this opportunity.

Now, more than two years later, I continue to learn and grow. Yes, there are still times when I feel depressed and stressed, but these episodes are much shorter and less severe than ever before.  I have finally found people, both at my current job and at my church, who I believe value and love me as I am.  As I look ahead to my future, I would like to show as many people as possible the love and joy I have found through God and others in my life, and give them hope, that they, too, can conquer their demons and live in abundant joy.

Source: 1) Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2017). Key substance use and mental health indicators in the United States: Results from the 2016 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (HHS Publication No. SMA 17-5044, NSDUH Series H-52). Rockville, MD: Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Retrieved from https://www.samhsa.gov/data/

How Suffering Can Build Character

Ever since I was an infant, I have always hated suffering.  I don’t only hate going through suffering and trials, but I hate to see other people I love in pain. Violence on television sometimes makes me cringe.  However, in the past few years, I have learned over and over again, had it not been for certain bouts of suffering in my life, I would have never been the kind of person I am now.  I am still far from perfect. However, I can attest that most, if not, all the trials in my life have served to strengthen and better me as a person.  Here is what I learned about how certain areas that I experienced suffering in my life have helped build my character.

Suffering physically/health-wise

For regular readers of this blog, you have probably read the story about when I almost died in June 2014.  To make a long story short, I started having more and more pain in my side area of my body. I thought it may have been from heavy lifting, until I started throwing up blood. Thankfully, the doctors and nurses found the source of the problem: my gallbladder, which was twice the size it should have been, inflamed, and had at least several gall stones in it.  Then, the next day, the gallbladder was taken out before it could have burst—just in time.  During and after this ordeal, I learned many things.  First of all, I learned not to take life for granted, especially the time spent with loved ones, because you never know when your time is up on this earth.  Secondly, I learned how lonely and depressing being sick and/or bed-bound can be. I only experienced this for about several days, and already I was depressed and had cabin fever.  I could only imagine how people who cannot get out of bed for weeks and months at a time must feel! Thus, this incident has caused me to pray more for people in my congregation who are sick and have more compassion for those that cannot get out of bed.  One of my pastors told the congregation about how people in our church who have been battling cancer do not come to the pastors first, but to other people who have been through the same thing they have, and thus would have more experience and compassion in how to best deal with their situation.

Being bullied in school and elsewhere

Some people I have met in the past few years would probably not believe that when I was growing up, I struggled a lot with making friends and was getting picked on regularly by my peers, because my life is so different now. However, I remember, especially in middle school and my first year of high school, people mocking me for everything from my ethnicity to the clothing I wore.  To make matters worse, most of the teachers were either unaware of what was happening or partly blamed me for being victimized by my own peers and thought I should try to “fit in” better.  (NOTE: Abuse and bullying is NE VER the victim’s fault!)  Also, some people pitied me and tried/pretended to be my friend, but they never stuck around long.  Even though these years were some of my most miserable and depressing, these events also served to strengthen my moral character. Out of these events, God developed in me a heart of care for all those who have ever been abused and/or bullied by others before. To this day, I have a strong urgency to do something to help those who have experienced abuse, bullying, or any other type of injustice. I do not want other people to experience the loneliness, desolation, and depression that I had experienced during some of those years in school.  I also don’t want people to think that they are unimportant or insignificant to this world, because every single person can make a positive contribution to this world. (Yes, this includes you!) If I had never been bullied in school, I would probably be extremely narcissistic and self-centered, as I was before this experience.  Even though I would not wish these experiences on anyone, I am thankful that I learned how to not treat people and thus, by default, know to treat others the way I would want to be treated.  I learned the high value of all people, even the ones that don’t stand out as much in this world.

Being unemployed or underemployed

There are many people I know that assume that most people can find a job in several weeks, and if they take longer that they are either “lazy” or “incompetent” in some way. I used to be one of those people when I was growing up.  However, during the times when I was looking for a job, I realized how arduous and discouraging the task can be, especially if you struggle with a disability or are somehow labeled as “different” from the normative idea of an “employable” person.  The interview itself can be very nerve-wracking. Something as insignificant as clothing choice or perfume smell can negatively impact an interview and also the chances of the applicant getting the job. This trial helped me in at least two ways: 1) I have more compassion for people who have a difficult time finding a job, but who still try, or even those that cannot work at all, no matter how hard they try.  2) I appreciate the job that I now have more because of the work and time it took me to get to where I am even now.  I work harder because I relish the joy of being able to be productive and make a difference in other’s lives.  I don’t take my job for granted, but have passion in what I am doing.

General suffering

In general, going through the trials I have has made me be able to comfort others who are going through similar things that I have gone through before. I am able to relate to them on a deeper, more intimate level, than if I couldn’t relate to them at all.  I have been able to develop more compassion for those who are suffering.  Also, I have hope, that, through the most difficult things that I experienced, that future trials will a.) Either not be as bad or b.) I will be able to overcome them with the help of God and of the people that will come into my life to help me through it.  Finally, through all the pain and hurt I have been through and witnessed others go through, I have realized both the value of people and time.  Because of this realization, I have been able to let certain irritants go  and just focus on making the best of my time with the people that love and care for me.

What I learned in Five Years

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

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

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

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

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

On Loss and Love: Lessons Learned 

-in memory of all my loved ones and friends who have passed away

This past week, for me, has been a week of both contemplation and mourning.  The day when I was to attend a memorial service for my friend’s sister, I found out that a dear congregant of my church, who I was just starting to know, had just passed away.  Meanwhile, I heard on the T.V broadcast, more sobering news about the problems of violence in Chicago. Also, I heard on the broadcast that white nationalists and anti-racist protestors where planning marches all across the country. The last time this happened (i.e  last year), there was widespread violence—especially in Charlottesville.  While I have heard that both my friend’s sister and the dear congregant valued people and life, sadly much of society is turning the other way.  I believe that one of the roots of most of society’s ills is the fact that they don’t really value people.

In fact, one lesson that I learned on loss and love is not to take others for granted.  Unfortunately, all of us (including me, of course), have been guilty of taking for granted someone’s presence, at one time or another.  For instance, for many years, I had not taken much of an effort to really help or get to know my aunt. Yes, I appreciated all that she had done for my family and me, but it didn’t register in my head just how much she had done, until she got very sick when I saw her about a month ago.  Fortunately, I still can get to know her now. Also, I was very fortunate that I was able to visit my dear congregant before she passed away and realize what a beautiful and joyous soul she was, even in the midst of her pain and suffering!   Had I not realized how much my aunt had done for me now, and had I not taken the time to see and get to know my dear congregant friend before she had passed away, I would have been filled with regret and deep sadness about missing opportunities to see such beautiful souls.  One practical way not to take others for granted is to thank the people in your life who have had a positive impact on you.  Don’t just assume that they will be with you forever, because even tomorrow is not guaranteed for us—or them either.  Don’t assume they will be able to provide their help or impact you in the way you want them to, because sickness or death may take them.

Another lesson that I have learned on loss and love is to value the time that I have on this earth. Strive not to waste time. I know waiting in line or in traffic may seem like “time-wasters,” but I don’t mean those. The more dangerous time-wasters in our life, I believe, are being jealous of someone, chasing material wealth, and obsessing over our outer appearance.  I am beginning to learn more and more that being jealous of someone (for more on jealousy, or envy, please see this post.)  is so much a waste of time, primarily because it does not work to improve oneself, only to destroy another person.  Also, thinking in your head ways to destroy a person ultimately not only hardens your heart, but also ultimately destroys you, if this envy is left unchecked.  Chasing material wealth is a waste of time because it does not last forever. When you die, you cannot take your wealth or even your car with you.  Being generous and leaving a positive mark on this world will last longer than trying to hold on to something that ultimately will be destroyed or lost.  Obsessing over outer beauty is also a waste of time because ultimately it won’t last. We get older, and eventually our body decomposes after we die.   Yes, we should strive to look and smell decent whenever we can, since this is a gesture of politeness. However, we should not have to spend hours looking good every day just to impress others.  So, how do we save time? I would attest that the best uses of our time are to spend it joyfully with those you love and/or care about, by serving others in need, and by doing what you can to benefit others.

Thirdly, another lesson that I learned in love and loss is to forgive, forgive, and forgive.  Even when a family member hurt my friend and her sister, they still took care of and loved this person when they became sick.  Had they had still held on to their bitterness and resentment, things would have probably turned out much differently.  When we die, knowing we forgave those who had hurt us, I believe we will leave this earth much more joyfully and at peace than if we hold on to bitterness and anger against someone else.  This is one reason that I am glad that I was able to forgive some of the people that I worked with that had hurt me emotionally.   I know I have forgiven one of them, because now I feel closer to them and actually care about them more deeply than I have ever had before.

Finally, but not least, another important lesson in loss and love I learned is to strive to enjoy life.  My dear congregant friend, even though she could barely get out of bed and was in immense pain, still was able to greet my other friend and me with a joyous demeanor when we saw her.  From her, I learned that one is still able to have joy even in the midst of life’s trials. I can have confidence that either or both God and my loved ones will always be with me in the midst of my pain, and in that I can rejoice.  I can look to the positive aspects of my life that are still intact, and focus on those, instead of my pain. I am still struggling to apply this to my life, but I do see some improvements.  My congregant friend, even though she is no longer with us, still inspires me with her infectious smile that was present even in the midst of her illness and suffering.  I also have learned to enjoy every moment of my life.  Even in waiting in line to pay for groceries, for example, one still can enjoy it by striking up conversation with the other people waiting in line for you. This can be an opportunity to see the beauty in the souls with you.   Learn to enjoy life even in the mundane tasks that you may have to do at work or at school.  I see too many people just going through the motions, and then wondering why life is so hard and depressing.  Find joy in the people you are with. Don’t assume that everyone you are going to meet is a jerk. Yes, some of them are, but there are also others who may be very considerate and loving of you.  Try not to focus on the tasks and the people that make us miserable, but on those that help you get through the day.

Both my friend’s sister and my dear congregant friend embraced life and others in a way that allowed them to both enjoy life and value others.  This is the legacy they will leave to me, and this is the same way I strive to live my life. Sometimes, death makes us ponder what our purpose in life is and where we are going.  This pondering is vital so that we can fulfill our life’s purpose and be more focused on what’s most important in our lives. We have only a limited time on this earth. Let’s make it count!