How Suffering Can Build Character

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

Suffering physically/health-wise

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

Being bullied in school and elsewhere

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

Being unemployed or underemployed

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

General suffering

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

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5 Destiny Encounters That Changed My Life

We all have those moments where just one person, one situation, or one moment can have an enormous impact on our lives. When I was growing up, I do not remember many, if any, such moments, even though I’m sure I had some. However, in the past ten years (mostly in the past five), I’ve had several such moments, that, as far as I know, will be forever seared in the memory of my heart. Of course, I know some of us may have destiny encounters that impact our lives in a negative way, but that is not my focus. All of these following encounters from my life have changed me for the better and have happened within the past ten years (with four out of the five happening within the past five!). In chronological order, these are my destiny encounters that have changed my life:

  1. Meeting my mentor J (circa February 2011-2012): After having a tough year in 2011-2012, because I was trying to get adjusted to a new pastor and also struggling through several relational issues with people, I needed a wise and caring mentor badly! I was also very frustrated because, although I was ready and eager to work, and had been looking for a job for some time, it seemed no jobs were the right fit for me. So, in February of that year, I met J for the first time. At first, I didn’t know what to expect, and, to be honest, I wasn’t expecting her to have that much of an impact on my life. However, over the years, she has helped me not only make peace with various people in my life, but also was instrumental in helping me land one of my first jobs. She, and some other people, also helped me find my current job, which has also made a huge impact on my life.  J has also been a tireless advocate and encourager and the first person to truly believe in my abilities and my potential.  Because of all her help, and some intervention from (I believe) God, I have much more purpose and meaning in my life than I have ever had before! My depression, which had dragged on and off for years, has finally, subsided substantially. Yes, it took a lot of work on my part to get to where I am now, but if it weren’t for J’s encouragement and help, I would not be where I am today.
  2. Meeting Veronica* (circa 2014-2015): I was at my previous church at an event. I don’t remember if it was some kind of celebration or party, or if it was a young adult bible study for people aged 18-35. I remember there being a crowd of people all around me, not really engaging with me, and seeing this young woman who I had not seen before, finding her way around the crowd and trying to engage with the others. So, wanting to engage with the crowd and especially to know more about this new woman, I went and introduced myself.  As it turns out, this young woman would become one of my closest friends! Veronica* and I are still in contact until this day. She has had an indelible impact on my life because of her infectious smile, general positive attitude about life, her genuineness, and her deep care for others, especially those who are hurting.  For example, one day, when I was having suicidal thoughts and was generally feeling close to hopeless after enduring an especially stressful day at work, her encouraging words and support gave me renewed strength to face the next day. I was no longer suicidal and had renewed hope in life and humanity. Through seeing and hearing about her serving the broken, hurting, and/or even the undeserving, she really opened my eyes to how to best care and encourage others, just as she had for me.
  3. Getting my current job (Feb-March 2016): There is a longer version of this event, here. After being turned down for one of my dream jobs at a bookstore, which turned out to not be a good fit for me anyhow, I was a bit discouraged. However, one wintry morning, when my mom and I happened to have to go to my current workplace, I asked the Home Office Coordinator about the status of my application, since I hadn’t heard back from them yet. When I asked her, she decided that I could interview at 1 pm! Because my workplace was a bit far from my house and my mom and I had other errands to run, I didn’t have time to change into decent interview clothes. When I was being interviewed, I was so nervous that I stumbled and stuttered over my words. I thought for sure I had flunked the interview. To my surprise, about an hour later, they offered me the job! However, I wasn’t sure if this job would be the best fit for me at the time. After seeking wise counsel from my family, I decided to take the job because of the opportunities that it presented.  About six months later, I was discussing wanting to be full time with one of my managers, and because she admired my work ethic and generally positivity, she eagerly changed me from part-time to full-time. And the rest is history!
  4. Deciding to come to my current church (October 2016): Many things were happening at my former church. It seemed like everyone was leaving, and some things were falling apart for me there.  My pastor there, who I admired and wanted to stay many more years, had been called to a different church.  We were being taken over by another church, which didn’t seem to be the right fit for me.  So, despite ten years of mostly good and encouraging memories and building relationships with the people there, I knew God was calling me somewhere else. I first tried attending a church down the road from my old one, but that one didn’t seem a good fit for me. Then, I attended my current church for the first time.  I knew of one person that went there—a friend of a friend. To my surprise, I found another friend who also went there and sang in the choir! I was so happy and surprised to see her and her husband there! Also, everyone was so friendly, but not overly so. People there seemed genuine, and the sermon touched my heart. However, I did not know if this was going to be my church home or not. I went several more times, and was so pleased with both the genuineness of the people there and the great, biblical quality of the sermons, that I decided to become a member less than a year later, in August 2017. The people in this church have deepened my relationship with God and others, a pastor there helped me to be able to study the Bible more effectively, another helped me forgive several people at work, and many people there helped me have not only more passion and love for God, but also for the people that I serve every day.
  5. Meeting my friend Ann* (circa January 2017): One day, when I was sitting in the break room and after praying, I heard a woman sitting with one of my other friends, talking about spiritual issues. I wondered if she was a Christian, because she used many of the same words a believer in Christ would, So, I asked her if she was, and she said something like, “Of course!” Because of our similar beliefs and passion for loving God and others, we began working together to impact our workplace positively with God’s love and kindness. For example, if someone is having a bad day, we try to encourage, or pray for them (if they allow us to). We also strive to demonstrate a hard-working ethic and a positive attitude to be a good role model for the others there.

These encounters all changed my life in ways that are only beginning to manifest themselves. They all gave me purpose and hope in my life where there was lack before. So, I encourage everyone to strive to be encouraging and uplifting to others, especially those that are hurting in some way. Who knows? Like my friend Veronica or my mentor J,  you may leave an indelible impact on someone else’s life.

*=not their real name

Metamorphosis

Metamorphosis

dedicated to: someone who inspires me

written on : 8/20/2018

When I first met you

You were full of grace

And I saw something true

A soul to embrace

 

Then the darkness fell,

Your light was hidden

The dark engulfed us

But then the sun rose

 

Again I saw your light,

Shining many colors

Like a butterfly

Flying in sunlight

A Beautiful Life

Poem written on : 8/8/2018

Through many trials

Through some regrets

I came to see

A beautiful life

 

Had it not been for surgeons

Had it not been for pastors

Had it not been for doctors

Had it not been for teachers

 

Had it not been for my family

Had it not been for friends

Had it not been for managers

Had it not been for you

 

Who knows where I’d be

What gifts I wouldn’t see

What love I would miss

What joy be absent

 

What a beautiful life I lead

Though I may miss some worldly success

Had it not been for all of you

I may not have ever succeeded

What I learned in Five Years

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

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

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

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

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

True love

True love

True love is giving someone more mercy and grace than they deserve.

True love is focusing on the good of someone even after they betrayed you.

True love is sacrificing yourself, even if you are not feeling well, to serve and to be with those you love.

True love is valuing someone so much that you want the best for them even if their future is not to be with you forever.

True love is helping those in need without expectation of return.

True love is valuing those who may not seem attractive to you.

True love is telling someone difficult truths, not so they feel bad about themselves or fall into despair, but so they can see the light and become a better person.

True love is about encouraging others who need to see the difference they have made in yours and others’ lives when they feel like they have nothing to show for their effort.

True love is about giving hope and joy to those who you think are least deserving.

True love is about sacrificing your time and money to help those who need your love and support now.

True love is about laying down your life, so that others may live.

True love is about sacrificing your desires, so that others may have a chance to blossom and rejoice.

True love is about letting the car, whose driver is in a hurried panic, cut in front of you, during construction.

True love is about forgiving someone who had hurt you deeply, and then investing deeply in them.

True love is about caring about the safety of others by warning them if they are about to fall into danger.

True love is about persevering through a tough situation, consistently, so that others may be spared of the pain you are going through.

True love is about giving your all to those you love, so their lives may be bettered and so they can start a chain reaction of positivity.

Worth It- a poem

Worth it     6/30/18

–for someone I know

On one cold wintry day

I was looking for hope

A place where I could grow

Where goodness I could sow

 

When I looked at your face

And the ones around me

Showed me amazing grace

I saw a gleam of hope

 

But then darkness took over

I hated everything you did

And what you were to me

Your light I couldn’t see

 

After that, the storm ended

All my pain, hurt, and hate

Melted away from me

Your light I could now see

 

For all you are to me

For all the good I see

And all the grace and love

I see and find in you

You are always worth it