community, credos, death, eternal matters, genuineness, goals, God, illness, joy, life, life lessons, pain, positivity, purpose

My Journey From Dark to Light

April 1999 was one of the darkest months of my life. Not only did my future faith hero, Rachel Joy Scott, die during this month, but I was ready to throw in the towel on my own life as well. In fact, in one of my journal entries, dated April 9 of that year, I had written: 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?

To the outside world, I had it easy, but inside I was crumbling at the seams. Not only was my academic load at school getting heavier and more pressured, but I also had to deal with an abusive teacher that nearly killed my soul. Moreover, I felt alienated from my family and felt that they couldn’t relate to my problems, and I had few friends, and theydidn’t know me well enough to really delve into the pain I held deep inside. Feelings of insecurity, hopelessness and overwhelm. I never imagined that I would ever make anything out of my life, as my verbally abusive teacher had claimed in so many words to me. I had little hope that my circumstances would ever improve or that anything would be or could be any different.

But when Jesus rescued me from the pit of despair and disillusionment the next year, He would change my life forever. I would find that zest life was supposed to hold, but it wasn’t in me. It was in Him!

How did Jesus change my life? How did He help me? Well, as the Anne Wilson song goes, “Let me tell you about my Jesus” and how He changed me.

Nearly twenty one years later, I sit in my room, and despite back pain, I am content with my life. Jesus has brought many supportive people into my life who have been there for me through the ups and downs of my life recently. I do want my physical pain to end and to be the end of all pain and suffering in this world, not only for me, but for all those around me. However, I know and trust that Jesus is with me through it and that He will give me the strength I need to persevere and to live for His glory.

Recently, my former pastor wrote me something that I thought was very wise and gives me hope in trials: Remember as believers our suicide is dying for self and living for Christ. Why not consider yourself dead and obey God?

So here I am, twenty one years later, still dealing with physical pain and in the grips of pandemic protocol, while Jesus is stripping away the selfish, insecure, overwhelmed, feeling-hopeless me, into a bright light that shines to the world for Him.

Jesus can change anyone’s life. Even if you feel that your circumstances will never change, remember how God entered into my life twenty years ago and transformed my life forever. He can do the same for you!

If you or someone you love is feeling hopeless or suicidal, please call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at: 800-273-8255. There IS hope when you are alive,. and there is help out there!

caring, community, credos, emodiversity, eternal matters, genuineness, God, hiding, illness, inspiration, integrity, life, life lessons, love, pain, positivity, purpose, stories

The Sabbatical

Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

I can somewhat relate to Simone Biles, but on a smaller scale, of course. I can relate to the feelings of being overwhelmed and being pressured to be the Best by oneself and those around you. I can also relate to the feeling that you have let everyone down if and when you fail. I can relate to the burdens of having to conform to 1,080 (a hyperbolic estimate) or so expectations of you placed by those around you. However, God used my feelings of stress and overwhelm to teach me many things about being human and coming back stronger.

Last year, in late October, I became so overwhelmed with the pressures and stress of work that I had to take a leave of absence from work. I had just moved from the state where I lived in all my life, about six months prior, and suddenly I felt like everyone had just abandoned me because I didn’t meet their expectations. Additionally, since this was in the midst of the pandemic, I could not attend church or meet new people. I thought my life was over.

However, even though I had significant stress even in my leave, one of the good things God brought me from this situation is to make time for self-care. Often, Olympic athletes like Simon Biles and Kerri Strug are pressured to do so much for others’ viewing pleasure that they are forced to neglect rest and self-care. This needs to change. The Bible says self-love is wrong and is one of the negative qualities listed in 2 Timothy 4. However, I don’t think the Bible means that taking care of one’s physical and emotional health is wrong. What I think was meant by that passage in 2 Timothy is one that is self-indulgent to the point where they neglect others’ needs or that they love themselves in such a way that they become vain and self-serving. Also, not taking care of one’s own emotional and physical needs in order to meet someone else’s expectations could also be considered the self-love that is condemned in the Bible because we are withholding part of ourselves just so that people would see us a certain way or as stronger than we really are.

Another good thing that I learned during my time off work last year is to not worry so much about other people’s expectations of me. One of the things my friend Alex taught me is to be more comfortable in being who God has created me to be, and to weed out those who try to change me into the image that they think I should be. What if we valued these Olympic athletes, and more importantly, those we say we love and cherish the most, by demonstrating in word and deed that they are loved unconditionally? After all, the Lord also loves us unconditionally. It even says in Romans 5:8, “ But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us (KJV).” Even when we were yet sinners, God loved us. Even when we were actively rejecting Him and His ways, He still loved us.

I still struggle with not worrying about others’ expectations of me, but I am seeing some light at the end of the tunnel. I am becoming more confident in how God made me, and this has in turn made me more able to minister to others who are struggling.

Through this trial, God also taught me to not be paralyzed by my fears. He has helped me through times even more recently where I felt like my performance at work wasn’t as good as it could be, and not delve into the belief that I am a complete failure. God has made me realize that being true to myself and glorifying Him are more important than meeting all the metrics that people may expect me to meet. Yes, I still want to do the best I can at work performance-wise, but I don’t want to stress if I cannot do as well as I (or others) may expect or want of me. I can also remember what one of my managers said to me, “ I assure you that all of the management team know your work ethic and how consistent you are so don’t stress out if you have a slower [performance] occasionally.”

I also wish all the Olympians and anyone else who feels pressured to perform at a certain rate would know that it is OK to fail sometimes or not be able to be the Best all the time. I wish those around them would remind them that they are still worthy as human beings even when they show vulnerabilities and shortcomings because we all do. No human is perfect, but every human has intrinsic value. That is what I ultimately learned during my time off work last year.

Photo by Joshua Mcknight on Pexels.com
caring, emodiversity, eternal matters, forgiveness, God, hiding, illness, life, life lessons, love, pain, positivity, regrets, stories, suffering, truth, work

Running Towards the Light

Photo by Steve Johnson from Pexels

written 11/27/2020, Edited: 12/03/2020, by Patricia A. Go

About a month ago today, I was in a deep dungeon of darkness—that was full of scary pictures of what my future would look like, as well as pent up anger and despair of the person I had become under months of demands and major changes in my life.  I couldn’t keep any food down, and I had trouble falling asleep at night. Days later, I also began to have nightmares about work.  This evolved to anger at almost everyone around me, including God, who I blamed for allowing these circumstances.   I wanted to run away and hide. I wanted to give up on life, and everyone that had hurt me, as I held on to bitterness, anger and resentment tighter and tighter. I was too terrified to go back to the place that I felt began my journey into the dungeon.  I shook with fear even at anything that resembled that place.

Until a week ago…

Last week was Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving is supposed to be a time of gratitude and honoring God and one another. However, I was still too consumed by bitterness, fear and anger to think about being grateful for much of anything. 

The Holy Spirit, because He is relentless in His love and truth, continually prodded me to forgive and/or let go of bitterness that I had against several people He brought to my mind, especially this one person.  I did not want to let go and forgive.  I thought if I did, I would open up myself to more hurt.  The cycle of the Holy Spirit’s prodding and my resistance went on almost throughout the whole day.  By the end of the day, I had a small desire to forgive this person, but there was an invisible roadblock that prevented me from obeying the Spirit. I knew I was grieving the Spirit, but I still was not in the place to forgive. Still, I was desperate to know how I could get over the roadblock, so I could finally stop grieving God.

At around 6:30 that night, I texted a friend to see if he had answers, but he was busy. So, I turned to YouTube, and finally found a video of a Christian speaker, Mark Ballenger, giving me the answer to the question of how to forgive from a biblical perspective.  To make a long story short, he said that we should forgive the people that have hurt us because of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross for us. Ballenger said that God deserves our obedience of forgiving the person that hurt us. The offender may not deserve our forgiveness, but God deserves our faith in forgiving the offender. 

After watching this video and reading over something on forgiveness that one of my friends had given me, I decided it was time to forgive this person who I held bitterness and anger against for these past weeks.  So, I finally obeyed, and this huge weight was lifted off me.

Then, the next day, I called the person and apologized to them for holding bitterness and anger against them and several others.  I felt so free.  Not only was I able to reconcile with this person, but my whole outlook on life changed as well. I was no longer afraid of the place which had caused me so much trauma and pain a month ago. 

Like Job, God has blessed me much on the other side of the pain that I endured.  Through the hurt, pain, turmoil, and trial, God was always there and never gave up on me. 

 I am nearing what I hope to be the end of this dark, long tunnel of this past month.  I am finally running towards the Light.

caring, emodiversity, eternal matters, heroes, illness, joy, life, life lessons, love, pain, positivity, purpose, stories, thankfulness, truth

How to Help Someone With Depression or Anxiety (including what NOT to say)

I have had struggles with depression and anxiety for many years, but during the past five years things have really started to improve dramatically, despite some challenging circumstances, such as having to move out of state for the first time in my entire life!  I would like to thank those people who have stuck by me through my life’s journey and encouraged me to never give up.  These same people have also taught me how to encourage, validate, and strengthen others who also, like me, struggle with depression and/or anxiety. 

I am a born perfectionist, not so much for others, but definitely for myself.  I broke down in tears the other day at work because the pressure of performing at a certain rate and the anxiety of not meeting the goals I (and, I thought, the managers) set for me at the time.  I dreaded disappointing them. I was afraid that they would think less of me as a person, or think that I wasn’t trying hard enough. The truth was that I had become so fixated on performing that my drive was starting to suck out the joy and motivation to even work!  Anxiety was starting to take over even before I clocked in to work.  However, one of my managers, Jim,* validated my presence and my character.  He made it clear that he did not expect me to perform at that rate every day, and it was OK to have bad days sometimes.  When someone is anxious, especially about not doing or being enough, a good way to calm their anxieties is to reassure them that you value them no matter what they do.  Also, validate something in their character that has nothing to do with what they are anxious about. For instance, Jim complimented me on how I make people joyful inside. 

However, I know from experience that there are things that you should never say to someone struggling with depression and anxiety. I had someone tell another person trying to calm my anxieties and depression not to “baby” me.  Never disparage someone struggling as “weak,” “babyish,” or “silly.” They already have low self-esteem, and may even have suicidal thoughts.  If you feel emotionally overloaded trying to help someone with depression and/or anxiety, don’t. Instead, enlist the help of another person who is better able to help them. 

Another way to help someone struggling with depression and anxiety is to invest in them and believe in their abilities. When someone is clinically depressed, they feel like they are in a deep, dark tunnel with no way out.  They don’t typically see their God-given abilities and talents. If someone is anxious about themselves, they may think that trying anything new or that they haven’t done in a while will result in catastrophic failure, so why try? My mentor J saw that I was depressed and didn’t want to get out of the house much.  I did not believe that I would ever get a job or do anything worthy in my life.  Thankfully, she saw a way out of my deep, dark tunnel of doubt and despair, and walked me through the long, but worthy process of helping me gain independence and be employed. She invested in me and believed in my God-given abilities.  When we take the time and effort to invest in someone struggling with depression and anxiety, we will most likely see a slow, but steady growth in that person.  They will be able to have hope and joy again. I can’t speak for J, but her investment has made a huge impact on how I view life and my challenges.  So far, even though I still get anxious and depressed sometimes, my episodes don’t last as long and are not as severe as before I met her.

Sometimes, the best way to help a depressed or anxious person is just to be there for and listen to them.  One of my online friends did not think she was doing much because she felt that she wasn’t able to completely get me out of my depressive episode.  She did more than many people offline I know. She didn’t have to say anything. She did not make things worse by offering unsolicited and unhelpful advice.  She just listened. Sometimes that is all that the person struggling needs at the time—someone that will care enough to listen and to be there for them, when no one else seems to be there.

Finally, we can pray for those struggling with depression and anxiety. We can pray for God’s presence to flood them. We can ask God to help them see His sovereignty and caring hand in the situation that they are in so their anxieties would be quelled.  We can ask God to help them see the hope and joy that awaits them if they put their trust in Him and do not give up on their lives.

If you are struggling now, there is a way out even if it doesn’t seem that way right now.  Don’t give up. If you are recovering, make it a point to help others out of the tunnel of darkness and help them see the Light of Joy and Love.  There is always hope when you are alive.

*=not his real name

community, emodiversity, eternal matters, God, illness, inspiration, joy, life, life lessons, love, pain, positivity, purpose, stories, truth

Faith’s Role In Beating Depression

Recently, I had an epiphany! I was complaining to my mom about something so minor that I can’t recall what it was right now, and she said these words that had a profound effect on how I saw God and my situation: We accept what God gives us.

Not only did those words convict me of my complaining, but they also gave me a new perspective on how I could choose to view the trials and cares of my life.

I have been struggling on and off with depression for more than twenty five years now and have just recently begun to realize that most of the triggers that fueled my depression stemmed from some type of discontentment that I was feeling , whether it was dissatisfaction with some aspect of how God made me (Why am I so short? Why did He make me have this type of personality, rather than someone more agreeable? ), my situation (Why am I experiencing this? Why don’t people like me? Why am I so burdened by “X” problem or problems? ), and so on.

One good example of me being depressed (or, in this case, more upset and anxious) because of discontentment was in my work relationship with one of my bosses I had.  I had prayed for one and half years for the relationship to be repaired and/or improved. I was so faithless that I couldn’t imagine anything good coming out of my problems with this boss! One day I was so upset that when I went to church on my day off, I was visibly distraught about this situation and felt like if I didn’t have help soon, I would blow up and totally lose my cool in front of my boss. Thankfully, my pastor made me look in the mirror and see how I contributed to the problems I had with my boss.  The Holy Spirit ended up prodding me to write a note to my boss apologizing for the anger and bitterness I had held against him.  From that day on, our work relationship dramatically improved. Now, I am happy to say that he was one of the best bosses I have ever had! Had I accepted that God gave me my boss for a reason and how God was working, I would have probably enjoyed a better work relationship with him much earlier!

God also helped me see why I should accept what He gives us in life. He gives us the answer in Romans 8:28(KJV) – And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.

How do we know that all things work together for good to them who love God? Because God is always good!  

This is where the devil tempts us to doubt, and thus sprout seeds of discontent in our lives.  He has been doing this ever since Adam and Eve were in the Garden of Eden, with the forbidden fruit.  The devil tempted Eve by saying to her, “For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.” (Genesis 3:5—KJV).  In other words, Satan was saying to her that God did not have her best in mind when He forbade her and Adam to eat of the fruit—that God was withholding good (“ye shall be as gods”) from her and Adam for His own benefit. Nothing could be further from the truth!

Satan does the same thing with us!  

For instance, when I complain about how God created me, Satan has successfully convinced me of the lie that God made a mistake, that He did something wrong and bad in the way He created me!  When we complain about a situation or a person that God has put in our lives that we don’t particularly like and it seems that either the difficult situation will never end or the difficult person hangs around in our lives forever, we believe the lie that God is trying to make us “suffer” or maybe that God does not have our best interests in mind when He allows the situation or person to linger more than we’d like.  We fail to realize that maybe God wants to teach us something through that person or situation, or that He wants to use them to refine our character and make us more like Himself! We also demonstrate lack of faith that God can make something good come out of that situation and person.

However, I find that when I trust God completely and when I accept what God has given me, I feel much more content in my life.  God then opens my eyes to see all the ways He has blessed me, and I begin to realize just how blessed I truly am! I begin to see how God is working in my life, and how I can reflect His light.  In contrast to the hopelessness that depression often brings, having faith in God’s goodness and plans for us gives me great hope. Faith has helped me to learn to trust that everything God does is for my good, even the trials in my life. No wonder Jesus says in Matthew 11:28, “Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” (KJV) I find that when I start to get burdened by all that is going on in my life, but then come to Jesus for rest, I find that I am significantly less depressed and anxious.  In that I find great hope for my life!

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What I Learned During My Past Illness-Revised Edition

 

2020 has brought much chaos and uncertainty in this country. Many people have gotten sick, and some have even died from COVID-19.  Prejudice and hate have become more widespread.   It’s easy to lose hope and fall into despair because of these events.  However, for me, today symbolizes great hope for my life, and I hope will inspire others to find joy and gratitude in their lives as well.   Exactly six years ago, had it not been for God ‘s intervention in the events of my life, I may have not been here to experience the blessings I cherish today.   Everyone that I have met after June 14, 2014, is a testament to this fact.

In the beginning of June 2014, when I was working at my previous job, I suddenly had intense sharp pains in my back and side. My family and I thought they were just muscle pains from lifting heavy things. My job involved some heavy lifting, and if any of you have met me in person, you know that I am quite small physically. However, I knew I had more serious health issues, when one Friday, I got home from work and started to have diarrhea, chills, and fever, accompanied with the side and back pain. I knew I was in trouble the next day when I started to vomit blood. At this point, I had already tried many over-the-counter medications and other relief agents, but none of them worked. I knew had to call off work that day and go to the emergency room (ER) as soon as I could!

 

Going to the ER

When I went to the ER, after many hours and many tests, and even an ultrasound, the doctors/nurses/surgeons/technicians discover two main things: 1) My gall bladder was inflamed and twice the size it should have been! 2.) I had several gall stones! Surgery to remove my gall bladder was scheduled the next day. I couldn’t sleep at all the previous night because of the stomach pains and diarrhea that occurred about every two hours. However, by the time I had the surgery, I was exhausted. The surgery couldn’t come soon enough!

 

Just before surgery, they gave me medications to induce sleep, and I was out in about two minutes. I woke up a couple of hours later, my body shaking a little. However, my body quickly calmed down with medication.  A couple hours after surgery, I ate some soft foods, and when it was determined that my food was starting to digest properly again, I was able to go home that very night.

Recovery

I had trouble walking at a normal pace for the first few days after surgery, and I had trouble keeping food down. However, after about a week or so, I was basically fine. At work, under doctors’ orders, I was not allowed to lift more than 5-10 pounds (about a gallon of milk) for a month after surgery.  However, I did get a point (point=punishment, closer to getting fired) for calling off to go the ER the day I went.

During this ordeal, I learned several things about life and how to deal with things:

If you experience unusual or sudden pain, take it seriously. Go get it checked out immediately! –I was relating this story to a friend of mine who met me only years after my surgery, and she said to me, ” You could have died, especially if your gall bladder had burst!” Luckily for me, it hadn’t, and I was able to get it treated just in time. So, if you experience any unusual or sudden symptoms of pain or other signs of illness, it’s best to get it fixed ASAP. Your life may depend on it!

Your pain won’t last forever– Whether you are faced with a minor illness or a life-threatening one, know the pain you are feeling now probably won’t last forever. It often feels that way, and your feelings should be acknowledged, both by yourself and others. However, try not to despair like I had after surgery. During my recovery, I was mostly confined to my house for a week, and couldn’t enjoy many things I wanted to do. So, I became very depressed and despondent. Even my daydreams were full of depressing content!  However, this did not last long. A week later, I was able to return to work and the pain eventually subsided.  Even if your pain or recovery lasts longer, don’t lose hope of things getting better. Keep on persevering even if you feel like giving up. This shows your strength and endurance not only to people around you, but also yourself. It does get better.

Your health is WAY more important than your job– I was working in pain for the two weeks before I called off to go the ER, and I had to call off that day, because if I hadn’t, I could very well have not made it out alive, and never been able to enjoy any of the blessings that I have today! It is true that I had to suffer the consequences of having called off that one day (They fortunately gave me authorized sick leave for the other week I was off). However, it was much less than if I had to physically die, never to enjoy or see life’s fruits again!

You’re stronger than you think– I always thought I was not only weak emotionally, but physically as well. However, when I was sick, I realized the opposite. I was surprised and humbled that I was able to work 2 weeks with an enlarged gallbladder and gall stones in my body! Also, I believe God gave me the strength to survive this ordeal and make it out alive, and this is a testament to His grace and love for me.  When you go through trials, I believe many of you will find out similarly as well. You are stronger than you may think you are!

The most important thing that I have learned about having been seriously ill was to appreciate what God has blessed you with in life.  Yes, I periodically forget this lesson, but when I contemplate what I went through six years ago, I realize how blessed I am to be with the people I am with now.  I realize that what God has provided me can be taken away from me at any moment, and that I should cherish them before I come to the day where I can no longer enjoy them anymore.

If you have the unfortunate experience of being sick or having a long-term illness, take it seriously. However, realize that this pain probably won’t last forever. Either you will go into eternity or you will get better.  Focus on the relationships you deem the most important. For me, it’s God, family, and friends, in that order, and remember if you are able to persevere, you will come out of this stronger.

 

caring, community, credos, death, eternal matters, family, friends, God, illness, joy, life, life lessons, love, pain, positivity, purpose, stories, suffering, truth

My Journey to the Light: Lessons Learned in the Dark

Also appeared in Persevering Hope, October 2019.

DISCLAIMER: Triggers for mention of suicide.

 On April 9, 1999, I had penned these words, ““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?”  Though I had been already battling depression for over five years at that point, that month was one of the lowest for me.   I had few, if any, friends, and I felt those closest to me could not relate with the emotional anguish and sickness that I was going through.  School was very stressful for me, as I endured a difficult class with an even more difficult teacher, who was verbally abusive to me and others.  Thankfully, God, in His mercy and grace, met me where I was at, a little over a year later, and did not allow me to give up on myself or on life.

I continued struggling through depression through my college years, and even still struggle occasionally now. However, I can attest that things have been much better now than they were that April day, twenty years ago!  In the deep darkness of my battle, I have learned so much that has enabled me to help encourage others who may feel that they are in the deep pit of despair and hopelessness and who are close to the end of their ropes.  Here are some of the lessons that I learned along this journey from the darkness to the light:

  1. Never give up! There is always hope when you are alive. Always! —I have wanted to give up more times than I could count, but God, in His sovereignty and love, never let me get that far.  I remember having symptoms of depression since I was ten years old.  When you are battling something that seems chronic or suffering for a long time, it is very tempting to give up on life and on God. However, perseverance is always worth it in the end.  For instance, when I was the most depressed, I thought no one would understand or even care about what I was going through. I hid the pain and the fears of having been bullied and rejected by some peers when I was growing up, and thought if I just tried to forget about it, the pain would eventually go away. However, when it manifested in increasing discouragement and an insatiable hunger for the desire to be accepted and love, and deep despair when my desires were not met, I thought more and more about ending my life.  Thankfully, God eventually took a hold of my life, and I began to see the purpose of my life. I also began to be increasingly motivated to spread God’s love to others.  Never would have thought then, that I would be surrounded by so many loving and supportive family and friends that I have today. I am truly blessed.  Had I taken my own life then, I would have never saw the light God had prepared for me today.
  2. Be compassionate and caring to those who are in pain, either and both physical and emotional. —I wish the people in my life now were there when I was struggling to see my value in this world and if there was any hope left in my life.  I find that when I am able and willing to even speak a word of encouragement to those who are stressed out at work, that their countenance begins to spark and brings them hope. When you see someone visibly upset and in pain, never stare judgmentally at them, but try to comfort them and offer them words of encouragement.  Nothing irritates me more than those judgmental, cold stares and comments from people when I am upset! I’m sure that upsets others in pain as well. When you take the time to care for and encourage those in pain, you bring them the hope and love that they have needed all along. Yes, sometimes caring for people is hard work, but you can possibly save a life when you take the time and effort for them. It is also so worth it!
  3. I learned that there was a purpose to my pain. — I have to admit—I have an intense phobia of suffering. Not only do I hate when I suffer, but I also detest when my loved ones and friends have to suffer as well.  However, when I am able to see the big picture of why God allowed me to go through the struggles and battles of depression and anxiety, I see that He was shaping my purpose to be able to help others who needed hope as well.  Had I not struggled with depression, I would not be able to relate to, on more than a superficial level, with the intense struggles that the people around me have had to go through. This truth is also emphasized in 2 Corinthians 1:3-5 (KJV), where it says, “Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God.” So, when we go through trials, God will comfort us, both so we can endure the trial successfully, and for us to be able to then comfort others.

So, as I continue to apply and review the lessons that I learned in the dark and afterwards, I taste and see that the Lord is good.  Because God did not allow me to give up, I am able to see the bountiful blessings that He has given me, the opportunities He has given me to care for others who are in need of hope, and I learned that I have a calling in life that required me to go through some pain in order to be able to fulfill it.  Do you feel aimless or in despair?  There is purpose to your life, and God can use you to help others in their pain if you don’t give up.  There is always hope when you are alive— and my journey to the Light is a testament to that fact!

caring, community, eternal matters, God, hiding, illness, life, life lessons, pain, peace, purpose, rejection, stories, thankfulness, truth

Living In Fear—My Journey Out

I have lived in some fear for most of my life.  Even back to my elementary school days, I was chided by teachers and peers alike for “worrying too much.”  I had severe OCD in my early teen years. Later, some of my anxiety sometimes turned into paranoia. Moreover, in my senior year of high school I was dubbed “most paranoid” by my graduating class.

But God has rescued me out of many of my fears.  Yes, He is the same God that has said, “Do not fear” numerous times in the Bible. 

I recovered from my severe OCD with medication and by slowly trying to reduce the time I spent on my nonsensical rituals. Now, many years later, I barely even remember what the rituals were! God used people and situations in my life to help me to combat the devil’s lies that not doing the rituals would bring me “bad luck”. (Yes, I actually believed that “bad luck” deal! ) God helped me realize that not doing the nonsensical rituals actually freed me to joy and to do what He wanted me to do with my life in the first place.

I also used to be so afraid what people would think of me if they found out that I was on the autistic spectrum and had other struggles.  I tried to hide my struggles from the outside world even before I realized I was on the spectrum.  I was taught by my parents, my culture, and the community around me to not tell anyone about my “dirty laundry.”  I know they all meant well—as they did not want to further expose me to becoming prey to unscrupulous people who may have wanted to take advantage of my openness.  However, I also felt alone and powerless to fight the battles that still raged on in my heart long after the visible symptoms of the struggles had passed.  When the Spirit impressed upon my heart to write about my struggles, I expected people to judge and even reject me, but, at that point, I did not care.  I knew God wanted to use me to bring hope to others struggling similarly.   When I started writing about my struggles, something amazing happened! Not only did God use me in His amazing way, but I also found that most people found my newfound vulnerability refreshing. It opened up the way for them to share their own struggles, and find acceptance and camaraderie with those struggling similarly, including myself.

Sometimes, I would also be afraid of certain people themselves, as when an abuse survivor sees his or her abuser in close proximity to them after going “no contact” for a long time.  This probably stems from an incident where a teacher growled at me and acted threateningly to me when I ran from him in fear.   I still fear people when they yell at me because of this, but thankfully my fear abates within hours, if not only a couple days, of the yelling incident.  God has infused the power of forgiveness and redemption to quell my fears of people yelling at or hurting me.  He has taught me (and continues to teach me) the power of releasing bitterness and replacing it with mercy, compassion and grace.

When I was in school, I used to worry about what would happen the consecutive days, whether it was the fear that I would not pass a test or quiz, or if I was going to get in trouble for something that I may have said or done. Sometimes, I would lay awake for some time worrying about these and other such things. What I learned was that my worries and fears either never came to pass at all, or it wasn’t as bad as I had imagined.  I still struggle with this sometimes, but one major way God has helped me with my fears is redirecting my focus from my circumstances and the “what-ifs” that I fear (like what if I don’t pass that test….or what if I get laid off or fired from my job? ) to His sovereignty and goodness. Now, I am learning how to say, “Even if I don’t pass the test, God will give me a second chance, for example….or even if I got laid off, God will provide me another job.  Even if I get COVID-19, God will use my illness to glorify Himself and bring about good in my life) This has quelled my fears about COVID-19 significantly, and has helped me to trust God’s sovereignty and goodness in my life, no matter what will happen. 

Almost everyone I know has at least one fear, even if they don’t readily acknowledge that fact.  It’s normal, but when fear starts to paralyze your joy and freedom in life, then it needs to leave.  With God’s help, you can conquer your fears and experience the joy and freedom He has for you.

caring, community, eternal matters, family, friends, God, illness, life, life lessons, love, positivity, purpose, suffering, thankfulness, truth

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!

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On Vulnerability, Depression, and God’s Sovereignty

No one knew.

Growing up, I seemed this bubbly, albeit, times, hyperactive little girl who got decent grades at school. I seemed to have it all—two parents who loved me, a cute little brother, and stability. 

What they didn’t know was that inside I was being tormented by thoughts about never being “good enough” to the outside world.  Unfortunately, many of them confirmed my fears.  Most of my peers didn’t want to know me on a level deeper than “acquaintance”.  I was bullied by several of them for any quirks that they saw in me. There also were some racial and cultural prejudices that I had to endure. 

I remember at the tender age of ten when the word “suicide” first entered the recesses of my mind. The demons in my mind deceived me into thinking this was a way out of all the pain I held inside for so long, laughing that they were going to somehow get me to ruin myself.

However, God in His sovereignty didn’t let that happen. I am still here, more than twenty five years later. 

Though God saved my life through Jesus’ shed blood on Calvary seven years after I first battled depression and that ugly word crossed my mind, it wasn’t until about seven years ago today that God revealed to me that I had indeed another weapon in my arsenal to defeat the demons in my head that had harassed me for so long. 

My voice.

However, I was terrified to be vulnerable (i.e…open up) to others about my struggles. I feared rejection, ridicule and condemnation, which I believed would kill me emotionally and spiritually, if not, physically as well.  In fact, in high school, I was voted “Most Paranoid” because I trusted so few people.

But through the Spirit’s promptings, I obeyed Him, and began to share my story and my struggles to others—first just to close friends, then more publicly in my blog.

The rejection and ridicule I feared receiving was few and far between.  Most people instead either related to me about their own similar struggles with depression or said that they would use my story to help their loved ones who were struggling similarly. 

The more I opened up about my struggles, the more I saw people around me, both online and offline, the more I realized that my story needed to be told.  God, in His sovereignty, had a reason for allowing me to go through these trials. He needed to use my story to give people His hope and love that He gave me so many years ago, when He first came into my life and saved me.  God saved me from more than hell—He saved me from giving up on myself and those around me that needed to hear my story, as much as I needed to hear theirs.

Image by Vicki Nunn from Pixabay