Why I Have Hope Everyday

Image by Wokandapix from Pixabay

I wrote on April 9, 1999, when I was still in high school: “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?”  I had no hope. I was fine physically, but I was slowly dying inside. 

I’m thankful that I didn’t die or take my own life.  Though I didn’t know it on April 9, about one year later, I would find Hope. Hope that helped me through the storms, and come out on the other side being greeted with a beaming joy and confidence that I had only dreamed of years before. Hope has also given me drive to persevere, even when I thought I could never make it. Hope has redeemed relationships that I thought were forever shattered.  Hope has taken the junk in my life, and made it a treasure. 

Hope was, and always is, Jesus.

Hope has given me purpose to live.  Before I became a follower of Christ, I was living aimlessly, for myself. I had adequate material things, but I never really thought about blessing others with it.  I wanted to excel academically, but that was getting more and more difficult, and my limitations were becoming more apparent. 

With Jesus, I have realized that the world is so much bigger than me. With Jesus, I am able to partner with Him to share His great love and hope for a world that is looking for something bigger than the pain and the drudgery that life often brings.

Hope has given me a light at the end of the tunnel. I still struggle with depression occasionally, but now even in it, I have hope that God will bring good out of even that.  I have hope, because God’s strength and light will help me overcome a depressive episode.  I have hope because God has surrounded me with a group of people who love and care for me.

Hope has given me renewed confidence and joy that I had never known before.  Since I found Hope, He has provided me with several communities of believers who have had my back and who care for one another.  This support network I have had has helped me through some of the toughest times of my life, and even helped deliver me from some really bad situations.

Hope has provided me with my current job and some great managers, including several that believed in me enough to help me learn new things.  I want to give a shout out to my now-former manager Elizabeth* who believed in me enough to allow me to train to be a back-up cashier and learn some managerial tasks as well.  I want to give a shout out to my now former manager Chris* who took the chance and first hired me. 

Hope has provided me a great mentor, in J, who always believed in my abilities and was God’s message to me that He would use me to accomplish His great will in my life. 

Hope has provided me countless wonderful friends who have put up with my depressive episodes and have helped cheer me on. 

Hope has given me much hope for the future. Hope has given me freedom from the shackles that held me back in my past. 

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More Than I Could Ever Dream

-written 3/5/19

When I was growing up, I was a naughty and very active child.  Despite my energy, I did not really have any close friends.  Back then, I dreamed of one day going to a prestigious university, like my parents, and getting the best grades possible. I probably thought, unconsciously, that if I made it to a prestigious and a good university, I would then be able to get a job that would pay me a lot of money, and thus I would win friends and influence.

Indeed, I worked very hard in school and got decent grades.  However, I really didn’t have passion for the content of what I studied; I just wanted to do well to please my parents and also to be “the –girl-who-worked-hard-and-got-the-best-grades.”   I wanted to be respected and valued. In retrospect, getting good grades at school became a sort of idol for me.  I worshipped the god of achievement, and without it, I reasoned that I was worthless.  

Shattered Dreams

(courtesy of photobias)

Then, when I was sixteen years old, I struggled through several classes. I no longer got the grades I wanted or needed. I was even in danger of failing a class. One of my teachers even said in so many words that he didn’t believe I would ever amount to much in this life, probably partly due to the fact I wasn’t doing so well in his class. I also lacked peer support. In fact, no one in my class dared to counter what that teacher said to me. I also I felt my family could not relate to the turmoil inside me, as they seemed to be living a different life.  In fact, in a journal entry from April 1999, I had written, “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?” I was so depressed that I wanted an escape, maybe to even end my life.

However, several months later, God saved me from that.  Fast forward a few years later, I went to college, but not at a prestigious university which I had dreamed.  After I graduated, I tried to look for work in my field of study, but to no avail.

After that, I finally found a part-time job in retail. There, I learned many customer service skills and other people skills I needed to succeed.  I did well there, but after a while, I felt God calling me to somewhere else—a place where I never thought I’d end up.  It was during that time, that God was preparing me for a new life, where He would give me more than I could have ever dreamed.

I was so excited when I got an interview at one of the local bookstores near where I lived! I had always dreamed of working in a bookstore!  I loved books, and the workers there seemed nice.  However, the day of the interview, I quickly found out that I wasn’t the right fit.  At this point, I didn’t think I would get another job opportunity any time soon. The search went on.

Metamorphosis

Then, one, cold wintry day on February 25, 2016, I went with my mom to the store I now work to buy a few things.  What I did not know was that trip would change my life forever.   

I asked the HR representative the status of my resume, and after that she offered me to interview at 1 pm.  Since I didn’t have adequate time to prepare or change into more formal attire, my mom and I ate lunch at the mall nearby, and then I went back to the store to get interviewed.  When I got interviewed, I was so nervous and stuttering over my words, that I thought surely they wouldn’t accept me. To my surprise, I got a job offer! I waited until the next day to accept, after I sought counsel from my family.  On March 10, I officially started at my current job.

Meanwhile, many people were leaving my now-former church. I loved that church, but inside there were so many changes that it rocked the congregation. About half of the congregation left or were in the process of leaving.  At about the same period of time, my brother told my parents and me that he was going to go to school in Texas to get his Master’s degree.  What I didn’t know then was my brother was going to live there permanently.

I felt, except for my new job, that my dreams were going to be shattered all over again.  I would either have to accept the changes at my now-former church or find somewhere different to worship. Not going to church wasn’t even an option for me.  I would also have to adjust to life without  some of the support of my brother.

My brother left for Texas in August 2016. The day he left, the house felt hollow and quiet. The basement that used to be full of my brother’s stuff was now almost bare, but habitable again.  My dad went with my brother to help him move.  My mom and I remained at home.  I felt numb and solemn that day. My heart felt like there was something missing—the void where my brother’s physical presence radiated my life.

Then, in mid-October, I said goodbye to the church that I had been attending for about ten years.  It was very hard, as I had established so many friendships there, and these people were like a second family to me.  Before I left to visit a church nearby, I was in tears, as I said goodbye to some of the congregants.

However, there was a very bright spot, in the midst of all the goodbyes, a month before I left my now-former church.

In September, I was working the swing shift, and one of my managers, Hope* was closing with me.  She was complimenting me about my performance that day. Since I was still part-time, I told her, “I am thinking of becoming full-time. However, Chris*, my manager, said I should wait a while. I was wondering how long I should wait.” Then, Hope replied, “You shouldn’t have to wait. You deserve full-time.”  Later on, or the next day, she put me in for full-time. Later, Chris also approved my full- time status. I was ecstatic!  Because of all the challenges that I had to face, I never dreamed I would ever get a full time job in my life! 

A month later, after I had left my former church, I visited another church.  It had many more people than the one I had previously visited.  A friendly couple greeted me and I sat by them.  Even the pastors were friendly. The sermon that day was very thought-provoking and relatable to what I was going through in my life. I didn’t know yet if this was going to be my new home church, but I liked their genuineness and their devotion to the Word of God, so I kept going. In August of the next year, I officially became a member of my current church.  Through my church, I have learned how to have an engaging quiet time with God, how to view life more positively and differently than most of the rest of the world, and how to forgive people who have hurt you deeply.


God’s Perfect Plan

No, I never got the six figure salary I had dreamed of, nor did I get into a prestigious college. However, I have been blessed with more than I could have ever dreamed. Through my church family and people at work, I have gained a strong support system. Also, I am still in touch with several people from my old church, who I still consider good friends, even though they live very far away from where I am now.  Through the tough situations I find myself in at work, God has used those to strengthen and shape my character into His.  Through church, I continue to train to be able to share the love and hope that I found in life through God and His gracious plans for me.  Yes, I still have bad days, but overall, I have found more joy and satisfaction during these past two years, than at any other time in my life. God has certainly blessed me with more than I could ever dream!

*=names have been changed for privacy reasons

Undeserved: Why Everything We Get Is A Gift

I believe that most of our problems in relationships stem from an “I-deserve-better” attitude.  This past Friday (at the time of this writing), a disgruntled former employee opened fire and killed five of his co-workers at a manufacturing facility, about a half hour from where I live. I attest one of the reasons why he got so angry was because he thought he truly deserved the job, and when his bosses fired him, everything in this former worker unraveled before him.  Though most of us would not murder when we don’t get what we think we deserve, we can still get tempted to get similarly angry when our “rights are being violated” or we think we aren’t “getting the good we deserve in this life.”  This causes us, me included, unfortunately, to become defensive and angry at those around us…and even at God.  However, a good thing to keep in mind, especially if you are a follower of Christ, is, “every good gift and every perfect gift is from above” (James 1:17a) and that we don’t really deserve anything!  When we have a mindset that everything good in this life is undeserved and is a gift of grace from above, this entitlement attitude starts to disappear. However, in the society we live in, especially if you live in a Western country, this entitlement attitude is deeply ingrained in us, me included, that I think we need to learn how to embrace the “gift” mentality instead.  Here are some things that I have learned about why we should strive to treat whoever and whatever comes our way as gifts, not as something “owed” to us.

When we think we are entitled to someone or something, we are not acknowledging that God really owns it all.  However, when we acknowledge that everything we get is a gift from God, we are recognizing His control and His power over our lives—an important aspect of true worship. My pastor said today that we must be willing to be a living sacrifice in order to truly worship God, and part of being a sacrifice is relinquishing our rights to His control.  If you work, even the money we “earn” from your job is a gift because it is God who gave you the abilities and skills to do your job well enough to be able to sustain employment and thus a paycheck! I wonder if the recent shooting on Friday could have been avoided if, when the man who shot five people at his job got fired, instead of getting angry at this perceived injustice, he just appreciated the money he had already gotten from his job and just appreciated the gifts he still had in his life more. 

When we see everything we have as a gift, and not something that someone “owes” us, we become more able to be content with life, even with its caveats and imperfections.  Think about how it feels when you get a gift that you totally do not expect or deserve.  Not only are you most likely to feel intense joy, but also, more likely, an overwhelming sense of gratitude and humility towards the person who gave you the gift.  When we strive to approach our lives the same way, each blessing we get will cause us to feel joy and gratitude.  However, when we think we are owed something or that we “earned” something, we are not as grateful because whatever we get is our due, anyway, or so we believe. This is why most of us get upset when we don’t feel we are getting what we perceive is owed us. We see it as an injustice, a violation of our moral rights.  However, if we take away the “scoreboard”  in our souls of things supposedly owed us, this anger has no longer has any place to reside, and will melt away.

When we see everyone and everything that is given to us as a gift, we tend to value them more.  For instance, if my friend gives me something that I perceive is from his or her heart and that is not owed me, I tend to want to take better care of it, so that I don’t lose the preciousness of the gift.  This not only applies to material gifts, it also applies to treating each person as a gift from above.  When we treat each person as a gift from above, instead of someone or something disposable or suited only to meet our needs, we tend to treat them better.  I have witnessed and heard in many different workplaces, unfortunately, of people being treated like disposable objects, or at best, tools, if you will, instead of the precious, complex image-bearers of God they are.  This mentality seems to be growing worse and more prevalent, not only in workplaces, but also in other social constructs as well.  However, when we go against the grain and strive to treat each person we encounter as the precious gifts they are, we can not only touch lives, we can change the world around us for the better.

father valuing his child as precious

When we acknowledge everything we get is a gift, not something we are owed, we are most ready to worship God rightly; we are more likely to be content and grateful with our lives, and we will value those around us more.  This week God has been teaching me over and over again that everything I get from Him is a gift, and not something I could really deserve or earn.  When I realize all that has been given to me, I realize that I am blessed beyond measure by a God who gives me more than I could ever deserve.

How to Boost Morale at Work

Have you been tired, stressed, and overworked lately? Has the joy you once had at work been drained by the people and circumstances around you? If so, you are not alone.  In fact, according to the NIOSH report, about 40% of all workers in the U.S reported that their jobs are “very or extremely” stressful. (source: https://www.cdc.gov/niosh/docs/99-101/pdfs/99-101.pdf?id=10.26616/NIOSHPUB99101).  If you are working in a tough or a stressful work environment, there is hope. Personally, I can relate to being stressed at work, but when I apply these principles to how I approach my job, I find that I become less stressed.

  1. Maintain a good work ethic. –Yes, there have been several times during the whole of my work career in various places where I have been tempted to quit. However, something inside of me, probably the Spirit of God, urges me on.  This has helped me continue to persevere in spite of everything else inside of me screaming to “QUIT” or “Slack off.”  Always do your best, and never let anyone else convince you to do otherwise.  If you feel aimless or that you are just “going through the motions” at work, try to have a mindset of trying to learn everything you can to boost your credentials at work. This will also help you in case of layoffs, to be more indispensable and more likely to be secure in your job, or being more easily able to find another good job if that should happen. For instance, at my job, I have aimed to learn how to cashier, because I know that cashiering is an essential part of retail, and without these skills, I would be less likely to be able to move up or be versatile in the company I work for.  Now, my managers are able to use me to cashier in case the regular cashiers call in sick or we are shorthanded.
  2. Encourage others.—I have found that many people in various workplaces and in places where some of my friends work are in desperate need of encouragement and validation.  If you see someone going above or beyond, or are providing their clientele with excellent service, let a manager know that. More importantly, let the person know that they are doing a good job and that you value them. Be specific in your compliments. Don’t just say, “ You work very hard,” which can be good, but would mean more if you said something like, “ Joe, I appreciate how you took care of that customer today, making sure they had everything they needed, and making them feel valued  through your patience and making sure all their questions were answered.”  If you must criticize, assure the person that you still value them in other ways.  Never put down someone just to break their spirit. It is mean, callous, unnecessary, and ineffective in motivating people to do their best work.
  3. Have a servant’s heart.—Be willing to help others where needed, without stressing yourself out.  When someone feels overwhelmed by their work, and you are able to help them, do so.  If someone is going through a tough time and confides in you about it, offer to pray or help them in any way you can. When Jesus washed His disciples feet, He modeled for them—and us—a model we should all follow.  We should not only model that in church or at home, but also in the workplace. Managers, never be “too busy” to help and guide your associates.  Associates, be willing to do what your managers says, not only to be respectful, but also to help them through their struggles and lift a burden off them.

If we modeled a good work ethic, by persevering and doing our best, if we encouraged our co-workers, bosses, and clients/customers instead of putting them down, and if we had a servants’ heart approach to the tasks needed to be done at work, instead of only looking to our own interests, we could boost morale at our workplace significantly. By following these principles, not only will we boost morale, but we also will also build our integrity, which is something worth living for, in all areas of our lives.

I Will Never Give Up On You  – a poem

written : 12/6/18

 

Through all your triumph and glory

When I see the light in your soul

And I see you becoming whole

I will never give up on you

 

Through all the laughter and the pain

Through the joy of being with you

Through all the good times and the bad

I will never give up on you

 

Though at times you will fall and fail

And you want to give up and bail

Because you don’t think you’re enough

I will never give up on you

 

Though sometimes you drive me insane

And there are times of stress and hurt

Where some people treat you like dirt

I will never give up on you

What I Learned From Rachel Scott’s Life

On April 9, 1999, I wrote in my journal that I was dying inside. Nine days later, on April 20, one of my now-beloved faith heroes, Rachel Joy Scott, was shot and killed by one of her classmates. Her legacy and impact, however, will live on for many, many years. One of the lives that she has touched is mine. I have been so inspired by what I learned about how she lived her life! The three major things I learned about life from how she lived is 1) how to appreciate people and things in one’s life more. 2.) how to be amazing— and strive for more than “average” or the status quo. 3.) how to be authentic.

First of all, Rachel was known by others as being appreciative of what she had. In fact, according to the book, Rachel’s Tears by Beth Nimmo and Darrell Scott, she always stopped on her walks to look at the flowers and to engage with babies and small children when she went to the mall in her area ( Nimmo and Scott, 69). She also had the reputation of really engaging with the people she encountered on a regular basis and helping them when needed. Because of what I learned about how Rachel lived her life, I also aim to be an encouraging presence in others’ lives, instead of being a whiner or Debby downer. In order to do this, like Rachel, I must be willing to sacrifice my time in order to really be able to engage and invest in others.  In fact, in his book, “Chain Reaction,” Darrell Scott reiterates this fact. He says, “Many people are too busy, but if we want to be helpful, we will need to take the time.(Scott, 115).

Secondly, Rachel once wrote, according to multiple sources, that she wouldn’t “ be labeled as average.” In all the books and articles I had ever read about her, I sensed that Rachel Scott wasn’t one of those people who just lived to “get by”. She wanted to try her best in order to impact as many people as she could, for positive. She constantly strived to improve herself after she sensed that she fell short, both in her relationships with others and things like her job and work at school. She didn’t care if the people she encountered were outcasts or in any way different from her or perceived societal norms. She interacted with the people that needed her encouragement and love the most, even if it cost her reputation. I also aim to be so much more than “average” or the “status quo”. Like Rachel, I aim to upset the apple cart when necessary. I also aim to impact as many people as possible with the love Jesus Christ and countless others have graciously shown me. How much more satisfying life is when we strive to do our best everyday and not just do something halfheartedly.

Finally, another lesson I learned from how Rachel lived her life is how to be authentic. From all that I have read and heard about Rachel, I gathered that she was honest about her feelings and struggles, and therefore was able to be more relatable to others. It bothers me, however, when people act like they are perfect and don’t have any struggles, because I know they are hiding something from me and probably aren’t trustworthy either.  Rachel, in what I have gathered about her, was almost never, if ever, like this! I learned from her life to be open about my personal struggles, not so others will pity me, but to be more trustworthy and honest about who I really am, and to comfort and encourage those going through similar issues. I also learned that if one is honest about their struggles, it opens up the opportunity for others to open up as well, with less fear of being judged or condemned for their problems. This is where healing begins!

I have never personally met Rachel Scott, but am very excited to be able to meet her in paradise someday. To me, she is almost everything I would love to be–appreciative of others, amazing (or at least more than average), and most of all, authentic. This is why she remains one of my “faith heroes” today.


Sources:

Nimmo, Beth and Darrell Scott. (2000). Rachel’s Tears. Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

Scott, Darrell, with Steve Rabey. (2001). Chain Reaction. Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

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