Open Letters On Forgiveness

Written on    1/12-13/2018

Dear Anyone Who Has Hurt or Offended Me,

For some of you, I have held on to my anger and bitterness towards you for a long time. God convicted me today and told me to let it go. And I intend to do just that. If you had offended me, what you did was probably not right and I am absolutely not excusing your behavior. However, my response to you was not right either, and for that I am sorry. I am sorry that lashing out in kind and wishing evil on some of you. I am sorry that I hadn’t reached out to you in reconciliation and mercy earlier mainly because of my stupidity and pride that got in the way. I understand if you never are able to forgive me for this or don’t want to reconcile. However, if you would like to, I want both of us to strive not to hurt one another deeply again, and I want you to know that I have your back now and wish only the best for you.

Sincerely,

Patricia

 

Dear Anyone Who Has Been Hurt By Me or Others,

 

Hurt by others: If you have been hurt by another person (other than me), I am sorry. If you were ever abused by someone who was supposed to love and/or protect you (such as a family member), I am deeply sorry, and please take as much time as you need to process everything and heal.

 

However, for those hurt by someone who has not severely scarred you (though at times it may feel like it, I know.)I have these three words for you: Let. It. Go. Don’t try to let it go for their sake, but for yours!

 

What criteria I personally use now to determine if another’s hurt is worth holding on to or addressing in any major way:

1)            Are they hurting God—meaning are they blasphemous or against directives that He laid out in the Bible?

2)            Are they hurting my family or other loved ones?

3)            Are the issues/offenses at hand morally and/or eternally significant for their sake (i.e Are they committing a serious sin)?

 

If two to three questions’ answers are “Yes,” then it is worth getting concerned about, but if not, I just try to let it go. Even if the answers to these three questions are “Yeses,” I still try to speak the truth to them in a loving, but firm manner.

For instance, though, some people hold a grudge against another simply because someone did not say “Hello” in return to them. Yes, it can be upsetting if we are not acknowledged and it is rude for them not to acknowledge you, but is this worth remembering or getting so upset about? Also, someone not saying “Hello” to you or ignoring you, assuming it’s not family, will not hurt your loved ones! Also, no one will go to jail or get kicked out of anything simply for not acknowledging you, or at least it would be absurd if they did!

Let it go.

I understand why someone would hold a grudge against someone else though. I confess that I once was a grudge-holder, and then wondered why it was so difficult for me to grow spiritually and emotionally! I realized I held grudges for so long because I thought that by holding on to the hurt and anger and giving the offender or offenders the harsh, silent treatment, I was, in essence, “punishing” them for the hurt they caused me.  However, what often occurred was that the offender either didn’t care about the incident or the hurt they had caused me, or they didn’t even know how much they had hurt me! In essence, God gave me this epiphany one day that by holding on to these grudges, I was only hurting myself and the loved ones that hadn’t hurt me at all!

When I finally let go of my hurt and anger that some others had caused me, it was like a burden was lifted off me.  I no longer had to exert angry and hate-filled energy for that people and anyone associated with them and the incident anymore.  Most of all, I felt peace. I was open to reconciliation, and I was free of the bind of emotional pain that the offender or offenders had over me.

Let it go.

For your sake and for those that love you.

For those I hurt:

I do apologize and am so sorry that I hurt you. I don’t ask for forgiveness only for my sake, but also for yours. I want you to be free of the anger and hurt that I caused and that comes from bitterness and resentment. I will do anything in my power to repair the damage that I caused, and I will strive never to repeat the offense again.  Know you are valued and loved by God and by me. I only want the best for you. And I know that is what God wants for you as well.

Sincerely,

Patricia

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The Benefits of Serving Others

Have you ever wanted your life to have more purpose and meaning? Do you struggle with depression, like I do?  Have you ever wondered how you can make a positive difference in a world which often emphasizes self and demanding greed?  I have learned that one of the best ways to fill your life with more purpose and meaning, alleviate depression, and make a positive difference in the world to someone other than yourself, you have to learn to be able to serve others. In fact, a study from University of Wisconsin Madison(La Follette School of Public Affairs) determined that being generous and serving others leads us to view people more compassionately and creates a sense of community with others. (source: http://shp.rutgers.edu/current_students/documents/October2013.pdf) Here are some other benefits of serving others:

  1. It eliminates self-pity and feelings of worthlessness.—When one feels that they can’t do anything good for this world, a sense of self-pity and even hopelessness for oneself and the world ensues. It is easier to want to give up and give in to depression and boredom. However, when we strive to serve others, we don’t have time to think of self-pity and our so-called worthlessness because a.) We know that we are making a difference in at least one (if not, more) person besides us because we are helping them. b) I believe God gives us an intrinsic conscience in our souls to let us know that when we unselfishly serve others, we are doing something good.  When we help people in need, we also eliminate self-pity because seeing others in need helps cultivate gratitude for what we do have in our lives.
  2. Serving others brings meaning and purpose to our lives.—When we are wandering aimlessly in life or when we are doing something robotically (i.e.. going through the motions), often we find we are living life without much meaning. However, serving others has a great purpose—to better the world around us.  When we not just volunteer at one or two places, but when our whole mindset is about serving others, we will live life more intentionally and not worry about self-serving minutia anymore.  We live rich life, spiritually and emotionally, and life becomes more joyful and meaningful for our commitment to serving others.
  3. Having a servant-mindset (which I define it as: an unselfish motivation to serve others and do what is best for them) rather than a self-serving mindset helps us make a greater impact on the world around us.—When we strive to cultivate a servant’s mindset, we make a greater positive difference in the world around us because this mindset is so counter-cultural and so rare that it will speak volumes to those around us. The norm, sadly, is to be only focused on ourselves and our own needs and desires. Selfishness is only focused on the self and what makes me happy, without caring for another person.  Having a servant-mindset, on the other hand, is focused on others’ needs and wants, and the self takes a back seat to those around the self.
  4. Serving others helps us live longer and happier lives.—There have been numerous studies that have concluded that serving others helps us to live longer and healthier. This is because there is not only more meaning and activity in one’s life, but the satisfaction that one gets from serving others is greater than even the satisfaction of receiving love and care from another person.  Serving others also alleviates depression probably because one is forced to look outside oneself and one’s circumstance and actively instead engage in the life of another. This often not only reduces the stressfulness of one’s own situation because they are not focused on that, but one is able to help another through one of their life’s situations.

These are the benefits that many people (including me) have found when we serve others.  We can serve others in many ways. Even praying for someone else can be considered service to others. Many people volunteer to help others in need. Still others help to make a positive impact in their communities or even the bigger world around them.  What can you do to serve others? What benefits have you found in helping others? Please feel free to discuss in the comments.

My Journey To Joy

My journey to joy started when I was 16 years old, the year that God became a part of my life and being. This life journey has been on-going, with a lot of stumbles and falls in between. However, with the help of God and others in my life, I am able to get back up again and then continue to live joyfully each day.

Getting Out of the Pit of Darkness and Depression

Shortly before God rescued me from my sins and from my hopelessness that I felt in life, I was on my last rope.  I had a teacher that I believed was verbally abusive. He told me in no uncertain terms that I would amount to very little in life. This was a message that I internalized for many years and it almost became a self-fulfilling prophecy, but God is merciful.  In addition to that, I felt much pressure from everyone around me, but most of all, myself, to do well academically in school and go to the college of my dreams.  Because this aforementioned teacher failed me and I felt trapped in this class, I felt hopeless and even suicidal at times.  Also, I didn’t have the emotional support of many of my peers or even most of my teachers.

Then, one day (see: testimony link for more details), one of the few friends that I had, invited me to her bible study at school. Even though I was not religious at the time, I was searching and wanted to please my friend, so I went. I didn’t become a follower of Christ right away, but after several months, one day in my bedroom, I gave my life to Christ.  This was the beginning of slowly (emphasis on the word “slowly”) getting out of the pit of darkness and depression.

College and my first taste of joy

A couple of years later, I went to college, albeit not the one of my dreams. I remember dorm life being very difficult and trying for me. However, there I met my first friends that encouraged me when I was depressed and helped me gain footing for my faith.

After college/The first signs of my growing in faith

The first two churches I attended after college gave me a foundation to my newfound faith in Christ.  They taught me who God was and how His influence could be applied to my life.  I also found more joy in the second of the two churches I attended because I felt like it was there that I felt the most loved.  When I was upset because of the stress of life, several people at this church supported me emotionally and reminded me of what I had in Christ.  They encouraged me to persevere in life. It was also during this time that I first developed a community of friends online, who also encouraged me in my trials and who I could encourage in theirs. I developed a sense of hope and a glimpse of joy in my life. However, my joy was not yet mature and there were still way too many times when I became depressed again.

Joy Grows By Leaps and Bounds

In June of 2013, I got my first job where I felt that I could do fairly well in it. Indeed many of the managers and associates valued my work there. I still talk to a few of the people I worked with there. There, I learned how to treat customers and clients, and more in-depth about the sales/retail industry and how things worked.  I also continued to build relationships with the people at the church I attended at the time.  This is the first time I remember that I could say that I had some semblance of joy in my life.  However, God had greater opportunities in store for me. In March of 2016, God was calling me to a different job, and in October of 2016, God was calling me to bless a new congregation as well.

My Current Life and How My Joy Has Grown Even More

How I got my current job was truly a miracle and a God-thing in itself. For more details on how I got my current job, see this link.  God has blessed me more in the past three years, than in the first thirty-or-so years of my life!  Besides getting a new job, I also went to a new church.  This church has been a godsend to me for many reasons. First of all, the pastor not only preaches great sermons applicable to my daily life, but he also lives what he preaches, something rare in these days, even among professing Christians.  Sure, he is not perfect, but he is humble enough to admit this.  Also, so many people in my current church have supported me and encouraged me in my faith or when I had problems at work or elsewhere.  Also, I love how this church prays for one another and aims to provide for those congregants in need.  Also, my mentor J has helped me a lot in this season of life to debunk the negative thoughts about myself that some people in the past had communicated to me through their attitudes, words, and actions.  She, as well as others in my life, have encouraged me to become more confident in my God-given abilities and see myself as God sees me, not as someone who is better than everyone else, but also not as someone who is worthless and bad either.  My current job has also been a tremendous blessing. Yes, there have been many difficult days and situations there too, but they –and also the blessings of my job—have both served to help me know God’s love for me better and have helped me become a better person.  Finally, it seems I have been able to let go of some of my past hurts and anger towards the ones that have hurt me. God has even helped me to either reconcile with these people or not let them affect my self-worth and attitude anymore (or at least less).

The Future of Joy

In the future, I would like to solidify my joy by dying to self. Yes, the concept of denying myself seems counterintuitive to my joy, but I don’t think it will.  This is because when one is living only for oneself, they often create strife and unhappiness for others, and because of that, end up miserable instead of truly joyous.  However, for me, dying to self will actually allow me more joy because I no longer have to worry about what others think of me and my desires will no longer be of urgent importance , and so I will no longer be so upset if I don’t get what I want in life.  For instance, if I do something nice for someone that some of my friends don’t get along with because I feel God prompting me to, I will no longer worry about my friends thinking I will “betray” them by doing something good for their “enemy”. I will be able to do it willingly and with joy because what my friends think will take a back seat to serving God and others.  Also, if my manager tells me to do something necessary (i.e.. something that their boss tells them must be done also) for the smooth running of the store but that feels stressful and uncomfortable, I will no longer feel the urge to complain and/or refuse to do it because I don’t like it. I will be more willing to do said thing with a better attitude and even joy than if my aim were to do things that I want to do just because I want to do them.

This is my journey to joy. It is on-going and there will be many stops and starts along the way, but I know with God’s help, my joy will become more and more mature.

Some People Who Have Strengthened Me (and what I learned from them)

By myself, I don’t think I would be a very strong person. However, with these and more people and the power of my God, I am strong.  There really is strength in numbers! These people have strengthened me either/both spiritually and emotionally. I am very glad that these people were brought into my life!

Without further ado, here are some people who have strengthened me in my life and what I have learned from them during those times:

  1. My parents—My parents have been there for me through thick and thin. They have strengthened me by instilling good principles in me for living a successful life, such as the value of hard work and sacrifice. For instance, my dad has worked long hours at his job, not necessarily because he enjoys it, but in order to provide for his family. Not only does he work long hours, but he works very hard when he is at his job. He does not dawdle, but is industrious. My mom has also sacrificed a lot for my family and me. She not only often picked me up, but also helped me with my homework when I needed to be aided.
  2. My brother—My brother has strengthened me emotionally by always helping me see the reality of things when depression or anxiety has clouded my mind. For instance, I was telling him about the stress at my job and how anxious I was that I was not going to get everything done on time, even though I tried my best. I was afraid that I would be penalized by not getting what I needed to done by the end of my shift.  He told me, in so many words, that I was worrying for nothing because a.) Even when I got assigned to a lot of things and didn’t get it done, the managers were understanding. b) I often got things done anyway.  He also told me that I could start prioritizing my tasks so that I wouldn’t have to “eat” the whole assignment at once, but I could just do it bit by bit, eventually getting everything done!
  3. J—My mentor J has also strengthened me by believing in me and that I could accomplish great things before she even saw evidence of anything I did! She helped me find a job and be able to overcome some of my major fears. Some of the things I learned from her are to never give up and to not doubt the abilities that God has given me.  For instance, before I got my current and previous jobs, I did not envision myself being able to work with so many people and be successful at it, but J told me to try anyway. I did, and although there are some difficult times for me, I believe that God has given me success in what I thought I could never do before.  When I wanted to give up on myself, she pushed me to move past my fears and insecurities, and persevere.
  4. My manager I—My manager I has strengthened me in a similar way to J. In the time that I have known her, she has believed in my abilities and has helped me succeed further at work by helping me to both persevere and to learn new skills need to move up in the company. Even though she has a lot on her plate, she tries to find time to help me and to motivate me to continue learning new things.  Even when I didn’t do well one time, she said, “This isn’t you.” because she knew that I could do better and believed in my ability to do better next time.
  5. My (former?) manager Chris*–Chris has helped me learn the value of patience and perseverance. He not only interviewed me for my current job about two years ago and influenced the store manager to hire me, but also helped me personally as well. For instance, when I was stressed out about something, he took the time to call my house and explain the situation to me, something I’m sure not a lot of managers these days are willing to do.  I have learned so much from him and my manager I.
  6. My friend Veronica* –During some particularly trying times in my life, my friend Veronica encouraged me and validated me.  I remember at least one time (probably much more though) where when I wanted to give up on life and on love, she gave me words of hope to persevere in God’s call for me.  She has always affirmed me, especially when I felt like I couldn’t affirm myself.
  7. My friend Erica*–She has always believed in me and my God-given goals in life. Like my brother, she helps me think logically through situations so that I don’t get an unrealistically pessimistic view on things. She has always been willing to spend time with me when she visits, and is willing to invest in me and others around her.  Her perseverance and her care have always been an inspiration to me.

 

 

These are some of the people that have strengthened me. These people are some of the most amazing people I know because they believed in me even when I was at my worst, and gave me hope when I was in despair and didn’t believe it would be better.  I will be forever grateful for them and what they have done to strengthen me.  Who are the people in your life that have strengthened you (especially during difficult times)? What have you learned from them? Please feel free to discuss in the comments.

 

*=pseudonyms to protect privacy

How You Changed Me (a poem)

Before I met You

I was on my last rope

I almost gave up all hope

Of ever becoming anything at all

 

But You transformed me

You made me see

Your light shining inside me

And gave me worth and hope

 

You breathed life into what was dead

With Your word I was fed

Precious nutrients to my hungry soul

Till again I was made whole

 

You have made me bloom

Into a precious rose

As you continue to grow me

Into what You made me to be

My Word of the Year

According to Christian author John Piper, joy is “a good feeling in the soul, produced by the Holy Spirit, as He causes us to see the beauty of Christ in the word and in the world.” (source: https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/how-do-you-define-joy ). I will use a similar, but more general definition. Joy, to me, is a good feeling in the soul that causes us to see God’s beauty in the world around us and towards Him and others.  Even three or four years ago, my struggle with depression was so great, some people failed to see much joy in me. However, these past two years I have had more joy than at any other time in my life!  Inspired by other bloggers who also have their own word, I choose joy as my Word of the Year because this word—joy—reminds me that God will give me strength and courage to choose joy in 2018 and because I feel it says to Depression’s face, “ I will beat you and overcome you! I will triumph over you and crush you!” Here are the ways that I hope to be able to continue to be joyous in my life:

Joy with God

Everyday, I will continue to list at least three things during the course of my day that I am thankful for God doing in my life today. Even such simple things like having a job remind me that there are things in which to find joy.  I will also strive to be more focused on my reading/devotion time with God by looking for all the good God has done according to what it says in the Bible. I will memorize Romans 8:28, which says, “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,” and Jeremiah 29:11, which says, “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.” I will memorize this to remind myself that God always does things for my good and His glory, and not just to be a cosmic killjoy.

Joy with family and friends

I will be more intentional about carving out times to spend with people I love. I will strive to enjoy myself with them without worrying about what I’m going to do next or my other issues in life.  I will be more intentional about finding things to appreciate about the people whom I am closest, and to be of support to them whenever they need me.

Joy at work

I love my job, but there have been times when I was so stressed that I was tempted to quit.  In 2018, I want to be able to find joy even in the more difficult times there. I want to be able to work with a more cheerful heart. I want to not only have joy for myself when I am working well, but I also want to spread joy to others. I want to be more intentional about thanking people at my job who I think do a good job. For instance, one of my co-workers recently was able to help a customer find an item, that even one of the managers couldn’t find. He even walked the customer to the item in question.

Joy during difficult times

When I am enduring trials, I often find it very difficult to have joy in them because of my aversion to suffering. However, I would love to have joy even in these times. I will strive to focus on God and how this trial won’t last forever. I will also strive to see it as an opportunity to grow as a person and to learn from myself and others during these times.

 

So, joy will be my word of the year.  As I have more joy with God and with those I love and care about, I believe that I will have more joy at my workplace, no matter the situations I find myself in. If I have joy in all these aspects of my life, I will be more able to find joy even in the tough times. May each of you find joy in 2018 also!

Why This Year Was The Best Yet

I can’t believe this year is almost over, and what a year it has been!  I am writing this, and it is about two and a half weeks from Christmas, but when you read this, it will probably be after Christmas.  I have learned so much about myself and others, both good and the things that need to be changed. Overall, this year, I have never experienced more joy and fulfillment during any other time in my life! Here is why, for me, this year has been the best yet and what I learned:

  1. I learned how to forgive and let go of the painful parts of my past.—Normally when people had hurt me deeply, I took a very long time to forgive them, mainly because I thought by holding on to my grudges I was exacting “vengeance” upon them by withholding my affection and love for them, and letting them “have a taste of their own medicine.” Then, after one of my pastors talked to me about being kind to someone who had hurt me deeply, I had an epiphany from God: I wasn’t really succeeding in changing or exacting the vengeance I wanted against the offending party or parties. I was only hurting myself and the people that loved me by holding these grudges, because I was also erecting barriers to my love for them unconsciously. I didn’t mean to, but I did anyway because the grudges that I held squeezed out all the love that I had for anyone, even the ones that didn’t do anything to offend me!  Moreover, the offending parties often weren’t even aware of how much they hurt me, or didn’t care. Then, when I let go of my grudges that I had for several people this year, I found that I was free to love not only them, but everyone else around me. I was more willing to take risks with them and others, because I knew that holding grudges and withholding affection was making me into a stingy, unforgiving, and miserable person to be around! I was also finally able to tell my mentor J about something relatively painful that happened to me in the past, and make peace with that painful event. Though I still wouldn’t trust the person that made that event painful, I forgive them and am not angry at them anymore.
  2. I became a member of my current church.—In October 2016, I felt God calling me to leave the church that I had been a part of for over ten years. I really loved the church, and I still keep in touch with and love the people that are still there. Then, I visited a couple of churches, one of them the one that I attend now.  At first, I wasn’t sure if God was calling me to stay or keep searching for other churches. However, each week, I kept going back to the church I attend now. I learned that the pastor there, Pastor David Shoaf, has served faithfully at my church for over 40 years, and that all the pastors and guest speakers that have ever spoken were very solid in the Bible and good at speaking. I especially like how Pastor Shoaf has taught the congregation to look in the mirror and thoroughly reflect upon our lives to make the necessary changes. I also love how the members of the church are willing to help those congregants in need or at least faithfully pray for them if they are unable to help.  On August 2017, I took a step of faith, and became a member of my current church.  I believe in what my church stands for, how they serve one another, and how they are striving to do their part to spread God’s love all over the world.
  3. I became closer to God as a result of His work in my life.—God has been shaping and molding me since the day I got saved. However, He has worked in and through me, especially this year. He has helped me to see things that I had never quite grasped or seen before. God has really opened my eyes to much of His wisdom. For instance, one of the reasons that I sometimes had problems with people at work, at home, and/or other places, is because of how I thought about a situation. Then, my Sunday school teacher recommended a book that really opened my eyes to my thought problems. It was called “Loving God With All Your Mind” by Elizabeth George. One of the things author Elizabeth George talked about was that love doesn’t think evil of anyone, which I was sinfully doing when I was upset at someone.  For example, when someone didn’t do something they promised me that they would, I had often thought that person was intentionally lying to me, or didn’t care about me. However, later I found out that because of some unforeseen circumstances, they couldn’t do what they had promised, even though they had every intention of carrying it out. Now, I am trying to be more intentional of not thinking badly about someone when they disappoint me or don’t act in the way that I expect.
  4. I am using my degree in college to show others God’s love for me.—I started my blog in 2015, but really wasn’t so intentional about posting regularly until either late last year, or early this year. This is also around the time when I joined a blogging group online, which has helped me not only to gain more visibility for my blog, but also to learn about other topics that I hadn’t yet explored in my life. Supporting other people’s blogs by reading, commenting, and/or following their content, has helped me learn about others and gain knowledge in more areas that I didn’t know would interest me—such as cooking and travel. I had a writing degree in college (after switching to it from a Biology degree my sophomore year of college) that lay mostly dormant for a long time, until these past two years.  This year, especially, God has helped me to use my writing abilities to show people His love and to inspire people to live a more joyful, fulfilling life, becoming all that they are meant to be. This is what I hope to accomplish these next years for this blog.

This year (2017) has been the best year yet of my life because I finally learned to forgive people that hurt me, both in my distant and recent past.  I became a member of my current church, and that helped me to become part of a community that has similar life purposes to me.  I have become closer to God as a result of His work in my life, and I am finally able to do something worthwhile with my writing abilities.  This, and I’m sure many other things as well, has made this one of the best (if not, The Best) years ever!

Top 10 Most Influential Life Teachers

According to Merriam-Webster, a life teacher, or what is more commonly known as a mentor, is “a trusted counselor or guide.” I have had the fortunate experience of having had many mentors throughout my life. I would love to be a mentor myself to others too.  Though I believe we can learn something from everyone, here are some life teachers that have profoundly shaped my life, besides God (Who has provided these teachers and therefore is the Ultimate Teacher, or Mentor) and some of what they taught me:

  1. My mom and dad—They have taught me so much about life, not only because they are my parents but also for the example that they give me. They have both taught me the value and rewards of hard work. They both emphasize and follow this ethic themselves. My mom has worked tirelessly serve her family, and my dad has worked many hours at his job to provide for his family. It was my dad who actually told me that it is better to try your very best and fail than to do moderately good, but the work you did was not your very best.  I try to apply that to my own life, especially at my job. Even when some of the people around me may not be up to doing their best work at my job all the time, I still strive to do my best because of my parents’ example and because I want to serve my God in the best way possible.
  2. J—Ever since I met her, she has been a great mentor to me. She taught me to stretch myself beyond what I ever thought was possible and believe in myself and the abilities that God has given to me. She also taught me how to overcome my fears and anxieties, and not be too comfortable with the norm, because “the norm” will never get one anywhere in life. When I wanted to give up on myself, J urged me on. For instance, when I didn’t think it was possible for me to get a good job, she helped and encouraged me to get the resources available to me in order to be able to find a job that suited my abilities and interests, which I never thought I’d be able to access.   Best of all, even when no one else had believed in me, she did!
  3. My friend Barbara*–I met Barbara at my previous church eleven years ago. Although we don’t get to see each other much anymore, she still has had a profound impact in my life. She helped me see things realistically, instead of just through my own emotional lenses, which often turns out to be wrong or distorted in ways. She taught me how to be a better Christian and how to trust God more. The lessons that she has taught me has helped me to resolve conflicts quicker and to get out of my own stubborn shell to be able to see things as they really are, instead of just through my distorted lens.
  4. My former pastor Frank Taylor—Pastor Frank became the pastor at my previous church seven years ago. Though he has since been called to a different church, the impact that he had on me while still at my previous church was profound. He was the pastor that first taught me the value of humility.  One example of him teaching this value to the congregation at the time was when people were complaining about him saying something that they felt was offensive. Many pastors I know would just profusely defend themselves and never apologize. Yes, Pastor Frank did also explain himself, but he almost immediately wrote a formal letter of apology to the congregation and asked for their forgiveness. Not a lot of people in his position of power I know would go to such lengths to apologize.  He also openly preaches about the struggles he has had in life, and how he learned from them, instead of trying to hide them from others.
  5. My current pastor David Shoaf—Pastor Shoaf, as he is often called, has also had a profound impact on my current life. He has also taught me important lessons on humility. Not only is he careful not to talk too much about himself, he also preaches in such a way that we can adequately reflect on what he is saying. He has said that he wants his messages to be such that people are forced to look in the mirror of their lives to make sure their lives are matching up with what they say they believe.  Not only are his messages always relevant to my life, but the way he lives also accentuates his messages!  He has faithfully served my current church for over 40 years!  In the way he lives, he has taught me gratitude (He profusely thanked us when we had a party in honor of him and his birthday this past summer.),  faithfulness (He has faithfully served this church for many years and has been married for about the same time as well.) ,  humility (He doesn’t like to draw too much attention to himself), and kindness (He always tries to get to know how people in the church are doing and tries to talk to each new guest that attends our church for the first time.).
  6. my manager Chris*–Although I have only known him for about a year and a half, he has taught me a lot about myself and life. In a previous post, I discuss some of the things he has taught me. See this link for more information. One of the other things that I didn’t emphasize in the previous post is that he has taught me patience and the value of service. He taught me through the good he has done for others that doing good is always worth it even if you don’t get rewarded right away. He has taught me to be less self-centered and more others-centered.  He has also taught me how to be patient.  Though I still struggle with patience, I have learned that I can wait for certain things and not be anxious about it. For instance, I needed to talk to one of my managers about something, but was told that I had to wait. Ordinarily, if it was even remotely important, I might be anywhere from slightly annoyed to throwing an anxious fit about it due to my anxiety issues! However, this time I was able to let it go and decided to talk to her about that thing the next time I see her.
  7. my friend Holly*–My friend Holly, though I haven’t met her in person, has taught me so much. One of the most important things she has taught me is the importance of validation. Validation is so lacking in this world, but she gives it like the food we need to eat. Her encouragement has gotten me through some pretty tough times in my life and has helped lifted me in times where I was depressed and despondent in life.  Through her, I have learned to judge less, and encourage and love more. I also learned from her that everyone has a story, and to have more compassion and love for those who may not have the same privileges that I do. She has further taught me not to take anything for granted.
  8. my current manager I—My current manager I has taught me, like my parents have, the value of hard work and dedication. She has also taught me the value of believing in others because she has believed in me. When other managers were simply too busy to teach me department manager stuff (no fault with them though), she took the time out of her busy schedule to teach me some things.  In that not only did I help her get some managerial things done, but she has helped me to know some of the things department managers have to do.
  9. My manager Tom*–My manager Tom has been a godsend to my company. For more information on him, see this. He has taught me the value of humor and of integrity. He doesn’t pretend to be someone who he’s not. For instance, when someone asks how he is doing, he won’t just mumble fine when he is feeling terrible, he will actually tell you that he feels terrible. This is not so you will feel sorry for him, but to show his genuine character. He also makes others laugh. For instance, he knew one time that I straighten the aisles very well, but joked to one of my other supervisors that I only do things “half-way.” I was there too, and when I heard him say it and pointed to him, he knew that I “got” his joke and he and I started laughing.
  10. My friend Laura*–My friend Laura has helped me through many things. She has taught me how to be generous and thoughtful to others. Every time it is my birthday and for Christmas, she sends me a card even when I forget to send one to her. She was also my teacher in school, and Laura has sacrificed eating her lunch at times to help students. She has a true servant’s heart, and through her example, has taught me to be more like her.

These are the life teachers that have shaped my life the most today. I have learned so much from all of these people, and I have learned some of the greatest life lessons from them. Who has taught you the most in your life? What have they taught you, and why is it so important to you? Please feel free to discuss in comments.

 

 

 

 

Source: https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/mentor

*=pseudonyms, not their real names to protect privacy

What Christmas Means To Me

It’s that time of year again. For many, it means snow is coming, families and other loved ones are together, gifts are being given and received, and most of all, Jesus Christ’s birth is being celebrated.  Christmas means different things to different people. While it is a joyous time of year for many, for some it holds sad, and even, painful memories. We must not forget these people.

Christmas, for me, holds many special memories. Here is what Christmas means to me and why:

  1. It means reflecting on Christ’s birth and His love for me.—Although in years past I had not taken adequate time to reflect on Christ’s birth and what He means to me, this year I want to focus more on the true meaning of Christmas for me. I enjoy learning about the importance of His birth, how He impacted the world, and how I figure into the whole scheme of things through God’s great work.  I believe in the Christmas story about how the shepherds announced Christ’s birth and how He was born to Mary in a manger, but before my former pastor, Pastor Frank Taylor, explained this story, I never really grasped the full magnitude and meaning of the story. He explained one year about how the shepherds had reputations as thieves and/or low-lifes and that many Jewish religious people despised them. He then explained to us in so many words that God chose the shepherds to be in the birth of Jesus probably as a demonstration of His love for them and all people.  This love is what I want to focus on this year.
  2. Connected to the first reason, Christmas, to me, means sharing God’s love and joy with others.—In the recent past, I found that when I was upset at others, I was not only being too self-focused, but I also was losing sight of what I believe to be my purpose in life—sharing and demonstrating God’s love with others that God has shown me. If I am able to refocus on my life purpose, I have found that I stop getting upset, or, at least, get less upset.  To do this, I want to have a more thankful heart and spirit about me by encouraging and thanking others for any good that I see that they have done for either other people or my friends. I also want to focus more on serving others with a joyful and willing spirit, and not complaining about having to do x, even if it is not the most pleasant task in the world to do.
  3. Christmas means spending time with my family and other loved ones.—I love the emphasis not only on family, but also on the community coming together to celebrate this holiday in the different ways that they do. It is a coming together of peoples of all cultures, creeds, socioeconomic and all identifiers that the world places on us, and it focuses instead on enjoying time together and bonding. Thankfully, my workplace is closed on Christmas, and so are many other places, so I can enjoy the whole day with my family and get to know them just that much better.  A special thanks to the firefighters, police officers, first responders, doctors, nurses, and military personnel and their families for sacrificing this time in order to serve everyone and keep us safe.
  4. Christmas means engaging in the spirit of giving.—Though I don’t like an overemphasis on gifts, I do like giving and receiving gifts. I like that Christmas is a time where everyone can give and get something, even if it is just a smile, a hug, or a kind word.  I like when people put thought into their giving, and not just getting anything for someone else just to check them off their list. Giving and receiving gifts are also forms of bonding with another person.  When you give something and the other person opens said gift or receives it (if it is not material), seeing the reaction (hopefully, of joy) of the other person. When we receive something from someone, we want to know what it is and what the person was thinking about us in them getting that gift for us. Christmas also is a time when people can give much-needed donations to local and international charities, not only so the charities can operate, but also so they can make more of a positive difference to the people who they are wanting to help.

These are the things that Christmas means to me. It means giving of myself, both monetarily and practically to others. It means spending time with my family and other loved ones, in joy and unity with them. Most importantly for me though, Christmas means sharing God’s love with others and reflecting on Christ’s birth and love for me.  What does Christmas mean to you? Please feel free to share in the comments.

Gifts I Want the World To Receive

Amidst all the negativity and strife in this world today, I would like to focus on something a little more positive—gifts for the soul. Even though we live in a time where more countries and more people are enjoying economic prosperity and technological advances, there has also been more people that are either dissatisfied with their lives or with the state of this world today. Many people are either stressed out or depressed, or both. However, if more people in this world would receive these gifts into their lives, I believe this world would be a better place. Here are some of the “soul” gifts that I want more of the world to receive by Christmas and why:

  1. Peace and reconciliation—Almost everywhere I go, there seems to be a sense of unsettledness and/or stress in people’s lives. Sometimes, at work, I hear people arguing and yelling at each other. There have been hurtful words exchanged between political and governmental leaders. Cyberbullying seems to be rampant these days on the Internet. However, what if we, as a nation, as individuals, received peace and reconciliation in our lives? There have been people in my life that have hurt me emotionally, sometimes very much. I was able to reconcile with many of them, and I can tell you the feeling of unity and joy that returned to my soul as a result of me putting aside that bitterness, anger, and hurt for love and peace made not only me feel better, but our whole relationship much better as well. I would love it if some of the people at work who felt hurt by either other co-workers or other managers tried to work it out with the people that they felt offended by and/or forgive them, not because the offending party “deserves” it, but to free the offended from the chains of hatred and bitterness that would consume their souls. I would also love it if some of our government leaders humbled themselves and asked for forgiveness and worked hard not to hurt the people that they have ever again.  Is there someone in your life that you feel hatred and/or bitterness against? Yes, you can hold on to the hatred, but it will destroy your soul and eat you up from the inside.  It is better to be able to let that hurt and anger go and move on with your life so that you will feel free to love everyone else in your life without a barrier of hurt from your offender blocking intimacy with people who haven’t even offended you.
  2. Joy—Especially during the holidays, while there are many people who feel joyous, there are some people who struggle with feelings of depression, loneliness, and worthlessness, and there may be a good reason for that disposition too. Maybe they have lost a loved one, or maybe they hold memories of abuse from other unhappy people during this time of year, or maybe they won’t get to see loved ones this year. Whatever the case may be, having joy this Christmas season is a struggle for many people.  However, there can be some joy to be had, no matter what situation one finds themselves in this holiday season.  If you believe in God, focus on His great love for you and the gifts He has given to you this year, and really, all throughout your lifetime!  Focus on the people and things you have that you love and cherish, rather than the people and things you don’t.
  3. Purpose and Passion—I see the majority of people I know go to work to survive. However, a lot of them are working without really wanting to be there (i.e. They do it because they have ) or without aim or purpose. Some people go through life the exact same way—for survival, just because it’s not right to “give up.” True as that may be, when we go through the motions in life without knowing what or why we are doing what we’re doing, we will be more prone to give up when times get tough and we miss the excitement and joy life can offer. Going through life with a particular aim or goals in mind, having a particular focus, and doing it with all your mind, heart, and soul can generate joy like you wouldn’t believe!  When I work with a particular aim in mind, I get excited about reaching each step towards that big goal, and I work as hard and best as I can to accomplish that goal. For instance, my overarching goal in life is to share the love of God with others.  If I work with that goal in the front of my mind, I will more likely be proactive about loving others at my job, my family, and others I see on a regular basis better. However, when I lose sight of that goal, or when I forget this goal, I go into “survival-do-this-to get-it-over-with” mode.
  4. Compassion—We, as a society, I think, have become increasingly calloused to the needs of others and are taught to look out for number one instead. This has created a consumerist, entitled me-first culture.  The effects of it include sexual violence and entitlement attitudes, arrogance, violence on the streets, and even terrorist attacks. I am not saying that you, the reader, have a lack of compassion, but just society in general does. If the world received the gift of having compassion for others, people would aim to be kinder and more understanding of each other. We would have less wars and violence in the streets and everywhere.  We would think of others before ourselves. Everyone would be provided for because more people would see a need, and try to fulfill it, rather than watching someone else suffer in blind callousness and disdain for them.

These are the four gifts that I believe the world should receive.  If the world had more peace and reconciliation, relationships would be restored. If the world had more joy, the holidays would be great and enjoyable for everyone, not just the privileged and the blessed.  If the people in this world had more purpose and passion in their lives, then they would not have to go through life in survival mode, but have renewed joy in their lives. If the world had more compassion, more people in need would be cared for, instead of ignored and left to suffer alone. What are four gifts you think the world could benefit from receiving? Please feel free to comment.