My Hero, My Friend

You are a gift from the great God

Your sunshine grows more every day

As I see the light in your heart

Even when miles pull us apart

 

Your service has protected me

From many dangers and despair

I’m so sorry I couldn’t see

The great hero in front of me

 

But now I see your gallant love

For your country and fellow man

Your great compassion from above

And the great beauty in your soul

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Precious

-written 11/4/2018

I have seen you struggle all your life

Among others you have had much strife

People treating you like just a toy

For them to just use and then destroy

 

But they don’t know the light in your soul

The light that makes you awesome and whole

They don’t know the joy you brought to me

Or how precious you will always be

 

Don’t let their dark extinguish your light

Remember your value in my sight

Because you’re unique and set apart

And that I love you with my whole heart

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/

A Shining Light

-poem written: 10/17/2018

In a world of darkness and pain

Where they treated you with disdain

You were reaching your very last rope

But, in me, you saw glimmers of hope

 

God sent me to show you His love,

Agape love from up above

The one that would never leave you

The one that would show itself true

 

I, too, was a sad, lonely soul

Looking for someone to make me whole

In God, I found a love so true

The love that’s now shining in you

 

Best Advice Given

I believe that life is a teaching tool for us to be able to constantly improve ourselves and to learn as much as possible.  Though plenty of people have given me bad advice, there have also been many people that have given me valuable advice that has greatly impact my worldview and the way I live.  Here is a list (in quotes) of some of the best advice I have ever received in my life,  how it has encouraged or taught me about life, and why I think this advice is so good:

(In no particular order…)

  1. “Always do your best.”- my dad. – My dad not only has said pretty much this quote, he also has lived it. He sometimes picks up the slack of others who are not willing or able to work as hard.  I strive to do my best every day, whether it is at my job, or with my interactions with others, or whatever I do.  I don’t want to do anything half-heartedly, and I feel (appropriately) guilty when I do less than my best.  The feeling I get when I accomplish something good and I know I gave it my whole heart is one of the best feelings in the world!
  2. “My response is my responsibility.”-Pastor David Shoaf – My pastor’s quote is completely convicting to me because I know I have, on occasion, blamed someone for “hurting me” without taking responsibility for a wrong response to them.  When I remember this piece of advice/admonition, I am able to bite my tongue and be humble enough to admit my part in a conflict, where I had the wrong response towards someone, even if that other person really did hurt me.
  3. “Never let those who hate you dislodge your love and faithfulness to the God who gave His only begotten Son to give all for you.”—Pastor David Shoaf—Along with advice #2, I think what Pastor Shoaf said really encourages me to not let my love for God and others falter, even when others hurt or betray me.  Tough as it is to not let evil or hurtful people discourage my love, I figure that these people will eventually get what they deserve, but more so, I can “heap burning coals on their heads.” That is, I can let my love convict them of their actions, so that they will feel bad and improve their behavior. Also, sometimes the nastiest people are the ones that need our love the most.
  4. “Don’t let people say you can’t do something.”-J—This was said by my mentor J. I was so discouraged when I first met her because many people in my past had discouraged me from trying new things, and didn’t believe in what I could do. She not only said these words to encourage me, but also showed me she meant those words by always believing I could do the things that others may have thought I could never do.  Now, even when I have trouble doing something, I try again and again until I get it right. This advice is so good for all of us because it keeps us going, even when times are tough. When we don’t let other people’s estimation of our abilities influence what we do, we can achieve almost anything!
  5. “People are neighbors to be loved, not commodities to be used.”—Jefferson Bethke—Even though I have never met Jefferson in person, how he lives and especially this quote, inspires me.  This is a good quote to remind us of the value of people.  I have said this before, and I will say it again: When we stop caring about people, we become monsters.  That can also be said this way: When we treat people like commodities to be used, instead of souls that are to be loved, we also become monsters.  This quote has helped encourage me to uplift and encourage people, and never to use others to my own advantage.
  6. “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.”–Jim Elliot—This was something that the famous missionary, Jim Elliot, said in regards to the eternal versus the temporal.  I have been realizing more and more that this is very true.  This piece of advice has encouraged me to loosen my grip on some material things and be more willing to share with those that are in need.  In loosening my grip on temporary things like money and outer appearance, I have found that I am more able to love and help people than when I become stingy or judgmentally vain.  I also have found that when I apply this quote to letting go of small annoyances that probably won’t be remembered even the next day, and not to fuss over these issues. For instance, if someone rudely bumps into me without saying excuse me, instead of getting very upset at them, I would just politely say, “Excuse me,” and walk away from them, and not dwell on the situation again.
  7. “Dear ‘helpers’- If you’re doing it for the gratitude, then it’s not about them, it’s about you.”—my online friend *Holly (*=not her real name), in regards to people who do things that they think are kind, but only so they will feel “good” about themselves and will be appreciated by the recipient.  — This piece of advice has helped me to make sure my motivations in doing something for others are pure, and are not tainted with selfishness and self-aggrandizement.  I want to have a pure heart when doing something kind for others, helping others so that they will be able to experience love and joy, not just so I will feel appreciated by them.  I don’t ever want to feel entitled to appreciation or even respect, but instead to know that these things are gifts from above.

These are some of the best pieces of advice I have ever been given. All these words of wisdom have helped shaped my worldview in a positive and more enlightening way for me.  They have helped me to be more giving and loving of others.  What are the best pieces of advice you have ever been given? How have they influenced your life? Feel free to reply in the comments.

Lessons I Learned This Past Week

(*=Names have been changed for privacy reasons.)

written on 10/10/2018

Last week was up and down emotionally. When I was down, it was because work was more stressful than usual and I had forgotten about the good things in my life.  When I was up, things were better. Despite the highs and lows of the past week (and also this week), I went away learning three important life lessons.  These lessons are vital not only to one’s success, but also to one’s growth as a person.

Lesson #1—Never think that what you do is unimportant or worthless.

During this past week, I had a gnawing sense that whatever I did wasn’t good enough and was futile. This sentiment was fueled by a couple bad incidents where people were being rude and unreasonable to me. Thus, my thoughts grew so dark that I felt absolutely worthless to the world. However, the day after these bad incidents, a good friend of mine told me, “Do you know how many people look up to you?” Obviously, I didn’t think anyone really looked up to me, but her comment was encouraging to hear. Her comment also “woke” me up to the fact that what I do does make a difference to those around me. 

Then, I thought about the impact people have had on me. I think of my parents and brother, who have helped and supported me throughout most of my life, and have given me motivation to always do my best in life.  I think of my mentor J, who has believed in me so much that I am now able to do some things that I thought I would never be able to do. I think of all my friends that I have met through church, work, or other functions, and how they have each helped encourage me in their own way and have brought joy to my life. I think of my managers *Chris and *Elizabeth who have helped me so much to grow as a person and as an associate. Last, but not least, I think of you, the reader, who has helped encourage me to continue writing simply by choosing to read this blog.

I also thought about the people in my life who have impacted others. One of my managers, Kim* also thought that the job that she had done in my company was not always appreciated by others. However, one day, upper management wrote a note to her telling her what a good job she had done for a customer. Also, from the “Caught In Providence” page (Credits: Caught in Providence, ViralTrend), there was a judge that saw potential in a guy named Jose Jimenez about 20 years ago, who was battling alcoholism and drunk driving when he was 18, and warned him about the direction he was going. The judge asked Jimenez if he wanted to be dead or in jail, or if he wanted to be somebody. That was the wake-up call Jimenez needed to turn his life around. Now, Jimenez is a truck driver and a U.S citizen.  Never think that what you do well for others won’t have an impact. Just because you may never the see the fruits of your labor, doesn’t mean what good you did on this earth is worthless, because it is priceless!

Lesson #2—Everyone is a valuable creation, even yourself.

This ought to go without saying because it should be obvious, but your family and friends are valued creation because they are a good part of what makes your life worthwhile.  They also have the most impact on who you will become in life and can greatly influence how successful you will be in life. However, I think even your enemies are valued creation. I know we often do not want to think well of our enemies, and that concept is foreign in most value systems. However, our enemies can be valuable to us when we think of them in terms of what they can teach us.  For instance, I have learned from a lot of my enemies that not everyone can be trusted.  They have taught me the signs to look for in untrustworthy people (i.e  many people having their personality traits) and just to be careful when giving your heart to someone. I also learned not to take the bad things they said about me as personally as before, because their slander is more of a reflection of their character, not mine.  Our enemies can also refine us and make us stronger, more thick-skinned people.  They can be used to make us more compassionate people to others, and less like them.  You are also a valuable creation, because of the impact that you can have in this world every day when you wake up. You also can teach the world valuable lessons, not only about yourself, but about how one should live their lives.

Lesson #3-The people that are there for you are more valuable than gold or silver.

The people in my life that have impacted the most have either saved my life in some way, helped me persevere, helped me feel motivated to do better, or given me joy and/or God’s love.  One of them, my manager Chris* contributed to my life being saved one day.  I wanted to help him by working extra hours because he was so overwhelmed with only a few associates to help him, since many people had called off from work that day due to a bad snowstorm.  However, when he found out that I lived more than a couple minutes away from work, he, in essence, said, “I care about my associates. I would rather have you home safely, than worry about getting this work done.” Had he not cared about my safety, I don’t know if I would be here writing this post today.  I listened to him, and went on my way, also calling off the next day due to the snowstorm.  Another person that was there for me when I needed them was my friend Veronica*.  When I was feeling very depressed and hopeless because I was feeling stressed out at my now-previous job, she encouraged me to persevere and that helped me see that things would get better, and they eventually did.  One day when I was really upset, a friend of mine that attends my current church, sent me an encouraging forward with the header: “This is you,” and helped me see the beauty that she saw inside me.  This helped encouraged me to be able to get through the rest of the day.

These are the three main lessons I have learned this past week. I hope if you are feeling discouraged or don’t think what you do matters, that reading this will help give you the motivation and encouragement you need.  These lessons certainly gave me the much needed reminder of the fact that everyone impacts everyone else.  What you do matters. Make your life count today!

Godsend

written on 10/3/2018

— To everyone in my life who has believed in me

 

I felt alone for so long

I felt no one really loved me

Years of pain and hurt inside

I didn’t let anyone see

 

I was so torn and broken

I thought no one would love me

But my heart you would open

Healing the deep pain inside

 

You showed me abundant love

And gave me the strength to stand

Because you believed in me

And who I was meant to be