What I learned from my vacation

You may wonder why I hadn’t been writing for the past week and a half or so. Well, I have been on a siesta and have taken a vacation. However, being on vacation has not stopped me from continuing to learn about the world around me and how to better it. I met many amazing and interesting people during my vacation, including two men having the same name as my favorite manager ( see also: Qualities of my favorite manager)! Here are some of the things that I learned about this particular vacation that can be applied by almost everyone in everyday life (not just on vacations!).

  1. How beautiful God made this world.—On this vacation, I was fortunate and blessed enough to witness some of God’s beautiful creatures. Some of the most interesting things I saw in nature were: waterfalls, birds, flowers, and many, many trees! All these things reminded me how blessed we all are to live on such a beautiful planet. This vacation also has helped motivate me to be more environmentally conscious to help preserve the earth. Even a sunrise and a sunset each day have beauty not only because of the bright colors but also because it is a reminder that we are indeed able to still be alive on this planet and make some positive difference in this world!
  2. Get to know people before you judge them. This will enable hearts to be opened to receive love and respect.—At first, when we met the people with us on our trip, most people seemed more reserved and kept to themselves more. However, as time went on and we did more together, people seemed to be increasingly open and friendly to each other. When people let down their guards and set aside their initial impressions, I learned that this allowed us to love and respect each other more because we better understood where the other was coming from and thus were more open and willing to learn from each other.  I believe that if we all strived to really get to know and understand people better before having any type of snap judgment against them, this world would be a much more unified and loving place.
  3. When we strive to understand each other, rather than be selfish or rude, love can thrive and grow!—I admit that when things don’t go my way, I am very tempted to become self-focused. However, when I try to understand others better, I found that my love for them grows as God’s love and compassion in me are able to better flow through me, rather than my selfish, sinful self. The same goes for everyone else. I have been blessed to see people from my trip reach out to one another in unexpected ways, such as a.) Someone on our trip took pictures for someone when they were unable to so that they would remember the good times had with the other members of our trip. B.) The tour leader offering to help people with their flights and accommodations, often going above and beyond to make this possible. He also checked the weather the day before so to make sure no flights were being canceled or delayed, and if they were, he let us know in a prompt manner. C) Someone offering their seat in the front, so that others could sit there too.  These little things and more helped me to gain love and respect for everyone on this trip. What good deed can you do for the people that you encounter today? What have others done for you to gain your love and respect for them?

Overall, this vacation I took has been one of the best and most rewarding thus far. I will strive never to forget these lessons that I believe God has taught me and all the people on my trip that have touched my life in a very special way. Have you ever had the chance to take a memorable vacation or have you met remarkable people in your life before? Please feel free to discuss in the comments.

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My Life’s Journey: Dreams Shattered and Redefined

It’s amazing how God brought me to where I am today. What I thought my current life was going to be in the past is nothing like where it is today. Though much of my past dreams and goals have been shattered, I have never been happier and more fulfilled. This is the journey God has brought me on and I believe He continues to do amazing things in my life, despite the obstacles and pain I have felt in my life. Here’s what I thought in the past, and how God and life’s circumstances have redefined these thoughts:

  1. When I was younger, I thought to be successful career-wise and making a lot of money was important, especially the former part. –So, during my childhood and teenage years, I wanted to be everything from an astronaut to a microbiologist.  So, I wanted to go to a prestigious college to make that happen. Obviously, none of that came to fruition.  I did go to college and have some jobs, but nothing even close to my childhood “dream jobs.” I’m not that successful (at least in my mind) career- wise and still have a long way to go, but what I have realized is that it doesn’t matter that much anymore. Sure, I still want very much to be successful and excel in my current job, but I will never be a doctor or a microbiologist.  However, God has been using me for a greater purpose than my own selfish desires.  And in that, I feel fulfilled and happy.
  2. When I was younger, I longed to be loved and accepted by my peers and others around me. —When I was growing up, I didn’t have a lot of close friends.  I often felt alone and excluded. I was often the last (or one of the last) to be picked for team activities at school.  In addition, I was often bullied and teased by my peers and manipulated by several people for their own selfish pleasures.  I felt worthless and unappreciated.  However, when I became a follower of Christ, that started, albeit slowly, to change for me.  I became a new creation!  (2 Corinthians 5:17) I have only realized (sadly enough) in the past month or so, that I didn’t have to worry about what other people thought of me. I don’t have to strive to be loved and accepted by others anymore because even if everyone I knew left and/or rejected me, I will always be loved and cared about by God. Sure, I still struggle with this concept sometimes, even today, but I feel more loved today than I did even ten years ago! Also, my past experiences of being bullied, teased, and rejected by my peers and others, have helped me to be more compassionate and caring of others around me who have gone through or are going through similar situations.  It has also helped me to persevere through relationships and never give up on people.
  3. When I was younger, I lived primarily for myself and my own desires.–If you met me when I was younger than a teenager, you would have not liked me very much because I was very selfish.  I wanted things done in my time and in my way. I drove people away because I took up so much emotional energy. God redefined my younger-me mindset in a big way because when I met Jesus and even more now, I have realized that life is not about me.  Of course, I still struggle with reverting back to my younger, self-centered mindset sometimes, but then God pricks my conscience and enables me to think of others again.  Now, I want to serve others wholeheartedly and show as many people as possible the love that God gave to me because it is not about me, it’s about Him!  Yes, I often fail at this, but God’s love urges me to try again and then this time succeed in what he has called me. With God’s help, I have made great strides in this area. I am more open to other people’s plans and desires than I was when I was younger, and it’s all to God’s glory and majesty working in my life.

This is just a sampling of my life’s journey. Though many of my past dreams have been shattered, I could not imagine what my life would be like right now. It’s so much more fulfilling than I could have ever dreamed or imagined, and I could have never guessed that God would be such a big part of my life like He is now, and for that I am eternally grateful.

When I Say “I Love You”

This post is based on 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 (KJV), where charity=love:

Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up,

Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil;

Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth;

Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.

DISCLAIMER: This post can be for everyone, but is dedicated to all those who have made a positive impact in my life, especially my family and friends. Thank you!

 

When I say, “I love you,” I strive to love you with all my heart, soul, and strength.

When I say, “I love you,” I will always wish the very best for you and your future.

When I say,  “I love you,” I will always strive to treat you kindly and with respect. That means I will never think I’m better than you or better off without you. I will always do my best to respect your boundaries. This includes when you don’t want to be hugged, I won’t hug you. When you don’t want to talk about something, I won’t force the issue. When you can’t do this right away, I will try to be patient and wait for you.

When I say, “I love you,” I will do my very best never to think evil thoughts about you, never to slander you or talk behind your back.

When I say, “I love you,” and you wrong me and I get upset at you, I will a.) Get the issue between us resolved quickly  b.) Not allow bitterness to take root in my heart. c.) Have my anger at you subside as soon as possible.

When I say, “I love you,” and I wrong you, I will quickly ask for your forgiveness, repent, and try to make things right between us.

When I say, “I love you,” and you accomplish something special and good, I will always be there to support you in it. I will be happy for you and not be jealous and scheming against you.

When I say, “I love you,” it means that I will always encourage the best in you and try to bring that out.

When I say, “I love you,” I will always appreciate everything that you do for me and others.

When I say, “I love you,” I will do my best to always show my authentic self. Since there are no pretenses in true love, I won’t hide who I really am either. And I expect that you will not be afraid to show your authentic self to me either.

When I say, ” I love you,” it means that I will sometimes call you out on things that bother me about you that need to be changed. However, I will also strive to do this gently and in love.  This is not to put you down, but this is to bring out the best you possible.

When I say, “I love you,” I do my best to sacrifice myself and my desires if I think it will help lift you up in any way.

When I say, “I love you,” it does not mean I will never fail you or fail in my love, but it does mean that I will never give up on you or on our relationship.

When I say, ” I love you,” I will always strive to show how much God loves you through my words and actions to you.

What I Learned (or re-learned) from God Today

Disclaimer: This has content from a Christian perspective. Please, no disparaging comments or they will be deleted.  Thank you and happy reading. 🙂 This was originally written August 16, 2017, and will be up a few days later.

A few months ago, after having a very satisfying time with God, I decided to have what I call “God Day” again today. God Day is where I devote most of or all day to God to get to know Him better and to learn new things and re-learn old things from Him.  Everyone who calls themselves a Christian should try to do this at least once a year, preferably a few times a year.  Some people even do several days of God Days! At any rate, here’s what I have learned from Him during my time today and for the last several days:

  1. God is sovereign in control of everything.–I learned that I need not worry about my present and future circumstances. No matter what may go wrong or right, God is still in control. I believe that God will take care of me. No matter what. Always and forever. Even if someone hurts me physically or emotionally, God can still use that situation to bring about good in my life. Even if some of my prayers go unanswered, God is still in control. He is in control of the ultimate outcome of our lives. Yes, we make decisions (I don’t know how that works, but anyway…)  that can impact this, but ultimately it is His will that will win out.
  2. Everything that God does is to either bring us closer to Him or a way to bring us good and Him His due glory.–Even the annoying phone call I received from a scammer in the middle of my God Day today (Ugh, how irritating is that ?) helped me to rest in God’s grace. When I wanted to escape a bad situation that I had at work, God didn’t allow me to because he was using that situation to refine my character and grow me to be a more loving and patient person.  It was like God was saying to me, ” You don’t want to deal with [situation] anymore? How will I grow you then? Not going to happen until you deal properly with the situation at hand.”  My illness three years ago with my gall bladder? I believe it was to bring me to a greater appreciation of life and all that He had given me. I believe every situation in your life is allowed by God in order to make us a better, stronger person, even the bad ones. I’m not saying that it is good that you had to suffer through these things (I hate seeing or hearing of others suffering, and still do!), but that your situation is not hopeless even if you think it is! It is still redeemable!  Been rejected or abused? That experience can help you to treat others with more compassion. I have been rejected tons of times, and I know that these awful experiences have helped me to carry out God’s purpose and mission for my life with greater love and compassion than if I hadn’t been rejected by anyone at all. Lost a loved one? This experience of heartache and sadness can help you to help others through their losses and can help you value the people that are still with you more.
  3. I need to look to God and His character for love and approval and not other people.–In my experience, I have tended to look to others to draw upon my self-worth and how I thought I was. I now know that was a mistake, and I still struggle with this sometimes. Whether you are a Christian or an atheist, you can attest that other people’s perceptions of you aren’t always 100% true or even accurate. This is why it is so important for everyone to stop feeding on another’s love and approval as indicators of how lovable or valuable we are! The truth is that we all are inherently valuable no matter what other people say or do to us.  Whether you are Black, White, or anything in between, rich or poor, straight, gay, or bi, transgender or cisgender, republican or democrat, thin or fat, short or tall, or any other human identifier, we are all inherently valuable and should be loved and treasured as fully human, more valuable than gold or even platinum! For me, when I look to God for my worth, I know that I am His child and inherently valuable and cherished, no matter what other people say about me. So, if another person says that I am worthless and stupid or something to that effect, I can laugh in their face and acknowledge in my heart that they are lying, and not take them seriously at all! When I look to God, I know He loves me so much that even when I was at my worst, He gave up everything for me! (See Romans 5:8). 

These are some of the lessons that God taught me today. I know that today I can rest assured of God’s peace and presence in my life, even though things around me may be chaotic because He is my constant.  What has God and/or your life experiences taught you?  Please feel free to discuss in the comments.

Top 5 Men That Have Impacted My Life

Since I have already done a post (See: Five Women ) on women that have impacted my life positively, now it’s the guys’ turn. In addition to the five women that have impacted my life, here are who I believe (as of this writing) are the top five men who have had the most impact on my current life thus far and why.

DISCLAIMER: Some of these names will be aliases (i.e.. not their real name) for anonymity and privacy reasons.

  1. my dad--He was there for me when I was born and through thick and thin.  His work ethic and his willingness to serve and sacrifice for others have inspired me to do the same. As I said in an earlier post, he often works 10-hour shifts, at least five days a week. He sometimes works weekends as well. When he is at home, he doesn’t always lounge around and watch television all day but also helps my mom around the house. When I was discouraged about not achieving the desired result in school even though I had worked hard, he told me something like, “It’s OK, as long as you try your best. It’s better that you fail at something that you worked hard at than doing pretty well, but you don’t try your best.”  This philosophy set the foundation for how I currently strive to approach my job. In fact, I have this philosophy to work hard at my job, “Whatever you do, do it with all your heart.”  And my dad was a huge part of this mindset. (So if you read this, Dad, thank you.)
  2. my brother–Even though he is younger than me, he has had a huge impact on my life as well.  He has pushed me to succeed because he always believed in me and that I could do better and better.  When I was discouraged, he always took the time to talk to me and to encourage me. I was (and still am) always inspired by how innovative and creative he was and is.  For instance, when something in our house broke, he was able to fix it just by ordering the right part.  He also was able to figure out what exactly the problem was.  Not only that, but he has a kind and generous heart. I can never outdo what he has given me, both materially and eternally.
  3. Frank Taylor–He was my former pastor, but he has taught me more about grace and humility than most anyone I know. For instance, when he said something that offended a few people, he didn’t try to justify what he said or make excuses for why they shouldn’t have been offended. He humbly and contritely made a written apology to the whole church. Also, even though at first I didn’t trust him because I didn’t know him well,  he was patient in those times and didn’t try to force me to trust him.  He still showed kindness and grace to me. Though he isn’t perfect, he still strives to be transparent and acknowledges his imperfections.
  4. My manager Chris* (*=NOT his real name)— Though I have only known him for the past year and a half, he has taught me so much.  First of all, he has impacted my life because he interviewed me for my current job and was able to convince the Store Manager to grant me this job.  Also, he has taught me so much about patience, the power of grace and forgiveness, and perseverance.  He has offered to help me advance my career, while also respecting my life outside of work by giving me the days off that I need. I have discussed in this post what he has taught me.
  5. My favorite manager Tom* (*=not his real name)–He has taught me through his great example how to be a good manager.  He has always been kind, generous in his estimation of me, and provides much-needed humor on stressful days. I have discussed in this post how Tom has qualities that we should all emulate.  He also has helped me through some trials that I have had while working at my current job and has always encouraged me in my work.

These are the five amazing men who have most impacted my life so far. They all have had positive impacts on my life, without a doubt. Who are your top five men who have impacted your life? How? Why? Please feel free to discuss in the comments.

 

 

A Godsend–My current job

I personally believe that God led me to where I am today and with everything I am.  This is no less true concerning how I got my current job.  I am a sales associate at a large store. Sometimes there is a lot of stress, and yes I do have to work very hard, but I love it.

The journey to my current job:

I worked at a thrift store for almost three years and had a lot of good experiences there too. In fact, I have applied some of what I learned about customer service in this store to my current job! However, later on, as I grew and changed, I knew God was starting to lead me somewhere else.

I had applied to different places for about six months, with little luck. Still, I persisted.  I had applied to my current job too, but I also applied to a bookstore in my area.  To my pleasure, the bookstore had called me in for an interview.  It hadn’t opened yet, so I was led into a dark building and basically was interviewed in a warehouse-like environment. I didn’t care though; I was happy just to get interviewed. However, I was very nervous (read: too nervous), and the interview didn’t go as well as I had hoped. I didn’t know how to answer some of the questions and quickly found out that this job wasn’t a good fit for me.  Needless to say, the people at the bookstore never called me back. Since I had considered this my “dream job,” I was a bit devastated, but still held out hope that I would find a good job soon.

A few weeks later, I went into the store (i.e where I work now) because my mom and I needed to buy items from there. So, I decided to ask whatever manager was out there the status of my resume that I had sent online there.  So, I asked one of the personnel coordinators there, and she was very nice and scheduled an interview for me at 1 pm.  I didn’t have time to change into more formal clothes, so I had to go there with the clothes that I had on at the time.

1 pm came, and I was so nervous. There was also a woman there who would also become an associate and later one of my dear friends at work. I decided to make small talk with that woman who I will name “A”.  A was also looking for work, but unlike me, she already quit her previous job.  A was also kind of nervous. We both got interviewed by one of my current managers who I will call *Chris (NOT his real name).  He only asked one question about customer service. I was so surprised by how short the interview was. I did not know if I was going to get the job because I was so nervous during the interview. A and I waited for one hour to get our results and if we were going to get the job or not.  Chris kept walking back and forth and updating us on progress and getting our papers, etc.

One hour passed, A and I were each called in separately, and I was offered the job! I felt so happy but was a little disappointed when it wasn’t exactly what I wanted. However, I felt this job may be for me too, because of the opportunity to later advance and eventually I would be making more than I did at the thrift store!  So, I told the store manager that I would discuss the job offer with family and tell him tomorrow whether I would accept the offer or not.

My family and I decided that this job would be worth it.  So, I went in again, and I explained to the higher-up manager there (but not the store manager, since he wasn’t there at the time) that I would accept the offer, but I would have to respectfully give the thrift store my two-week notice before starting the job.

After giving the two-week notice,  I went to orientation.  It was several hours, but I learned a lot about the company and got my schedule. I was happy that they were able to give me much better hours than at my previous job.

What I Learned

I am so glad that I accepted the offer when I did because I felt that God had led me to my current job for several reasons.

1.) God wanted me to show His love to many people, whether it would be customers, my fellow co-workers, or even my managers.—One of the reasons why I have stayed where I am at my current job is God’s prodding me to show people there that they are loved and that they don’t have to feel alone or unappreciated. Sometimes, I fail at this, but I pick myself back up and try again.

2) God wanted me to learn from the people around me.–God wanted me to learn how not only to serve others through these three groups (customers, co-workers, and managers) of people but how to excel at my job. He wanted to humble me, by letting me know in no uncertain terms on some days, that I still have a lot to learn and to apply to my life.

3.) God felt that I could apply my skills more effectively in this job, rather than the job at the bookstore.- While I am constantly learning new and wonderful things at my current job, I am also applying skills that I learned at my previous job to this one.  For instance, at my old job, we had to always walk the customer to the item they are looking for, and I strive to always do that whenever possible and if the customer doesn’t refuse or decline to be walked at my current job. Also, at my previous job, I learned from the store manager at the time that if a customer has several items that they are trying to carry, that they should be asked if they need a cart as a way to give good customer service to them.  I always try to do that at this store as well. Sometimes, the customers say, “No, but thank you for asking,” or something to that effect, but if they say something like, “Yes, I need a cart!,” I immediately get them a cart, no questions asked. At the bookstore, there are no carts and since it is smaller, the customers don’t need to be walked as much.

Conclusion: I thank everyone at my current and previous jobs that helped me to get to where I am at today.  One more thing I learned is that when God (or your intuition) leads you somewhere,  listen to that prodding.  It may change your life for the better so you will be where you are supposed to be.  Has God (or your intuition) ever led you to somewhere where you felt “right”?  Please discuss in the comments.

How To Die to Self

Dying to self is not an attractive or a popular concept in today’s culture. Even our advertisements cater against dying to self! Think about it. When was the last time an advertisement encouraged you to benefit someone else, without expectation of benefiting yourself also?  Obviously, in this context, dying to self does not mean commit suicide, which often has more to do with suffering from a mental illness or wanting to get out of misery or pain, rather than what I am speaking of here.

Dying to self is often a difficult and painful process, and can take years or even a lifetime to develop maturely.  The apostle Paul, a devout Christian, says in Philippians 3:7-8 (ESV), “But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake, I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ.” So, the concept of dying to self, at the minimum, involves counting everything as a loss, for the sake of another or others. 

“Why would anyone want to die to self?” you may be thinking.  Well, when you find out that thinking of yourself all or even most of the time is impeding your relationships with others and is making you not as joyful and free as you could be, then you realize that at least part of the problem may lie within.

While there is certainly time for self-care, dying to self involves self-sacrifice and devotion to helping others. Here’s what I learned (and am still learning) is involved with dying to self:

  1. Be intentionally kind to another person for their sake, not yours.–While you will probably feel good after doing something kind for someone else (We can’t really get away from that, nor should we.), don’t let that be the primary motivator in doing the kind thing. Let the kind action be done because we want to improve their lives, and make them happy and loved.
  2. Prefer another before yourself–This means thinking about how the other person feels and what they want, instead of just what you feel or want.  This is called empathy. Some people (like me) may have some trouble doing this, but with practice, everyone can get better. Another example of preferring another before yourself is letting someone go ahead of you in line, especially if they are in a hurry because you don’t want them to be late to wherever they have to go next.
  3. Lose Entitlement–A big barrier to dying to self for a lot of people, including me, is the sense of entitlement or “rights” we think we should get. This is a big thing, especially in the country where I live. I’m not saying having rights is a “bad” thing, but it can be idolatrous if we are not careful.  For example, at work, some people think that if they are full-time, they should always get 40 hours, no more, no less and that they have a right to not do more than they should.  If their rights are violated or intruded upon, they naturally get upset and complain. However, dying to self means, in a way, “losing our rights.” So, if I were in that example for work, I would not complain if they had to cut me to less than 40 hours if I am full-time, and if they want me to do extra work, I will do it, not just for my sake, but for the sake of the whole team at work.
  4. Lose pride.–Another huge barrier to dying to self is pride.  Pride, in this context, means arrogance. Arrogance means thinking that you are better than others. Losing pride means, for instance, not looking down upon people that are poorer than you, or who, for whatever reason, can’t or don’t work, just because you work. It also means being willing to give and receive help when needed, and not worrying about “saving face.”
  5. Be grateful and trust what you have is already and will always be enough.–Jealousy and ingratitude are also barriers to dying to self. In order to truly be able to die to self, you need to come to a place where you realize what you have is enough for that moment. Being thankful for what I have and realizing how many people have made a positive impact in my life, helps me in this area and ultimately leads me to die to self a little bit more.  Being thankful helps me realize how much I have and how privileged I am, and that fact compels me to share what I have with others, whether it is material things, my abilities, or my time. I also learned though there will always be people who have more than I do materially, or who are better people than me, that God made me unique for His purposes, and that I don’t need to compare myself to others.  I just need to serve them the best I can and be thankful for them being in my life so I can have the opportunity to make a positive impact in their lives.
  6. Be willing to sacrifice for others.–This means forgoing something for the good of another. For example, if a friend enjoys a movie you don’t really like, but he or she really doesn’t want to go alone, dying to self would involve offering to come with that friend to see that movie.  You would forgo your time and your preference, for that of your friend. NOTE: Going to the movie, but complaining through the whole thing or otherwise having a bad attitude, is not dying to self, but “playing the martyr,” which is the opposite of dying to self. Another theoretical example would be if your friend forgot to bring their lunch and has no money to buy one for themselves, either giving your lunch to them and fasting that meal, or sacrificing part of your earnings, and buying lunch for them so they won’t go hungry is dying to self.

As you can see, dying to self is very difficult and involves a new way of thinking.  Often times, I fail too. However, dying to self is a process and takes a long time to do well.  It is often when selfishness starts ruining our relationships and communities, that we really wake up and start thinking that dying to self might not be a bad idea.
As I said, dying to self is very difficult to do and takes time, but I believe we must strive to at least try to do this if we want to improve our relationships with others and be truly fulfilled in this life.

Patriotic edition: 5 Things I’m Thankful For and 5 things we could improve

DISCLAIMER: Please no disparaging or disrespectful comments about me (the writer), different political views, or others in this blog. Also, please no arguing about political stuff here. This is not the place to do it! If you break any of these rules, your comment or comments will be deleted. Thank you and happy reading. : )

In honor of the 4th of July, the Independence Day of the United States of America, I will discuss five things I am immensely thankful for that this country provides, and five things we as a nation could improve on. I am honored and thankful to be born in this country and to be able to enjoy many of the freedoms this country provides for me today.  However, I know this country is not perfect and that it has a lot of problems and issues, which I will delve into later.  Regardless, I am thankful God put me here not only to be successful for myself and my loved ones but also to help others.

Five Things I am thankful for in the U.S.A

  1. religious freedom–I can be any religion I want to be and be able to worship freely without fear of being sent to jail or tortured for my faith. I happen to be a Christian, but I see others of different faiths, having similar freedoms to me.  This is not true in many other countries. I hear and know of people being jailed, tortured, or even killed just for practicing their faith. For example, in North Korea, in general,  if you practice publically any religion other than the state religion, you are put in prison and tortured until you submit to their faith.  This is a freedom we Americans should all be thankful for and keep preserving for the next generations.
  2. freedom of speech–Here in the States, in general, I can openly criticize my local government, state government, and even federal government, including the President and Vice President,  without fear of losing my job, going to prison, or being tortured or killed for that.  I can even stage a protest against the government’s policies, if I wanted to, without getting arrested or jailed just for doing so.  I am very grateful I can do that openly or even publically, without fear of being arrested or losing my livelihood for doing so.  In many other countries, if you openly criticize governmental policies or the leader of the country, you will be arrested and jailed for doing so. A few nations even kill their own people for protesting against their government or their policies!
  3. Adequate water supply- We, as a nation, are extremely blessed by our many bodies of water!  In general, 90% of the country, can turn on the faucet and water comes out. This is not true at all in many parts of the world! Some parts of the world don’t even have faucets or clean, running water! In many parts of the world, people must carry buckets of water from miles away from their home, just to get enough water to live! In many cases, the water isn’t even completely clean or as pure, as it is in the States!  I see some people here in the States just running the faucet without using the water that comes out of it. What a waste! Think of the people that don’t have any water near their homes.  Try to appreciate that you are able to have clean, running water, and don’t take this for granted.
  4. A strong and courageous military force — We, as a nation, are blessed to have men and women who are willing to risk their lives to defend our country and its freedoms. I know several veterans personally and am thankful to know them.  I am grateful for them and all military personnel because many of the people who are or were in the military have to go through not only grueling training to help them prepare for the battlefield, not to mention the horrors and the heartaches of war and losing your comrades, but when they come back to civilian life, they are often underappreciated and/or forgotten.  You may not agree with the principles of war, and that’s fine, but the fact that these men and women are standing up for our freedoms and protecting us from terrorists and other evil people, is something for which we should be immensely thankful.
  5. The right to defend ourselves against invaders or intruders.–We, as a nation, are blessed to have the Second Amendment, in case someone tries to kill or attack us, and the police can’t or won’t do anything about it for whatever reasons.  Now, I would personally never own a gun, but for those that do, I respect them, especially if they live in high-crime areas or are in situations where they feel legitimately physically threatened or unsafe.  In 90% of the countries that I’ve ever visited or heard about, it is illegal for private citizens to own a gun or any form of defense, even if they do feel their lives are at risk. I do think there should be gun control laws, but I think the basic right for United States’ citizens who are law-abiding and will use a gun responsibly should never be abolished.

5 things the U.S could do better

  1. Respecting people with different political persuasions.—There has been so much strife in this country just because Trump was elected. Sure, he has his issues, and you don’t have to like him, but hating him or people that agree with his policies, will not solve any of our nation’s problems!  I was very saddened by a man who shot several people who were playing baseball for charity just because some of them didn’t agree with this man’s political ideas!  I see many people on Facebook and Twitter just taking jabs at people because of their political views. If we want to be united as a nation, we cannot keep doing this! Yes, there are many people who hold views that I don’t personally agree with, both politically and religiously.  That does not give me the right to personally attack them, either with my words or my actions. This, in my opinion, is no longer “freedom of speech,” it’s being a jerk!
  2. Taking care of the poor.–I know many people here in the States, both online and offline, who are struggling just to get by.  Some of you may be thinking that these people should “just get a job.” First of all, it’s not that easy! It takes an average of five or six months to get a decent job for most people, and some it can take years, and yes, they are actively looking too!  I’ve been there.  Also, some people are disabled and can’t work! Either they have severe mental problems, or they are physically unable to work.  Finally, even if the poor do get a job, how many jobs do they have to get to have a living wage, and be able to spend time with the ones that matter to them most.  Two? Three? Five? It’s so difficult these days to even find one job. let alone several! And where would even an average, able-bodied person find the time and energy to work, let’s say,  four jobs to support themselves and family, and still have time to spend adequate time and energy to spend with their loved ones outside of work? I’m not saying that an abled bodied person should just mooch off the government and not to do anything with their lives at all. I’m saying that we should do our part to take care of the poor and hurting, because it’s the right thing to do, and you never know what struggles and hurts another human being is going through. So, unless you are God or know everything about someone, try not to judge them! In fact, in several places, Mother Teresa is quoted as saying, “If you judge someone, you have no time to love them.”
  3. Loving immigrants .—Unless you are a Native American, you have no right to judge who should or shouldn’t be in this country.  Yes, it is upsetting to some people when people come here illegally and don’t pay taxes.  However, hating them and/or treating them like commodities instead of human beings with felt needs isn’t going to solve anything. I understand that a few people who have come into this country have done criminal activities or committed hateful acts of terrorism, but a.) This isn’t the majority of immigrants. Most are families coming here to better their lives because of all the freedoms and opportunities we have here. b.) There are criminals that are American-born citizens too!  So singling out immigrants as perpetrators of criminal acts is not only unfair, it is often untrue as well!
  4. Loving people who are different than us.–In the past two years, there has been much strife because some people aren’t willing to accept or love people who are different than them. For example, a few years ago, a white supremacist murdered several black Christians worshipping God, during a Bible study, in Charleston, South Carolina, just because they were black! I mean these Christians didn’t even do anything to hurt this guy, and he still shot at them!  How sad! Of course, the majority of Americans are not as mean and racist as he was, but we all would do well to look in the mirror sometimes and make sure we don’t even have a trace of hatred for people different than us! This doesn’t only include being free from racism (and not being prejudiced against other ethnicities) but also loving people regardless of gender or gender identity, sexual orientation, social class, disability, religious beliefs, or any other human identifier.  Loving them doesn’t mean agreeing with everything they may do or stand for, but it does mean being willing to be there for them and comfort them if another person hurts them, and it means actively trying to help them find joy and meaning in their lives.
  5. Thinking of others before ourselves.–This is especially true if you are in a position of leadership in the U.S  government.  I saw a government official on T.V enjoying the beach he closed to the public because of a lack of funds. I have several issues with this. First of all, if the beach is closed to the public, you and your family should not be enjoying it either! It’s only fair. Second of all, if you want to enjoy the beach with your family, and there are not enough funds to keep it open, a public servant should take it upon him or herself to finance it so that everyone could enjoy the beach, and not just you and your loved ones.  If you are in any position of leadership, be it in the government, or in a school or in a workplace, you should always think of others before yourself. For instance, if you are a manager, you shouldn’t just cut hours or lay off people just so you can save money for yourself or people like you.  Think of others first!

These are the five things I am immensely thankful for in this country, and five things we can improve.  What are five things you are thankful for if you live in the U.S (or if you live in another country–what are you most thankful for there?)? What things can be improved in your country? Please feel free to comment respectfully on this.

Five Women That Have Impacted My Life Most and Why

DISCLAIMER: I will be using pseudonyms or initials for all these people for privacy reasons, except my mom, who will bear the name “my mom”.

  1. my mom–Besides the fact that she gave birth to me, she taught me how to be more unselfish and sacrifice for others. She does everything for the good of our family, and not just herself.  Growing up, she even sacrificed some pleasurable things for herself so that my sibling and I could have them.  From this, I have learned (and am still learning) how to be more willing to sacrifice things for the good of others, and not just think about me, myself, and I all the time. Before I became a Christian, I was VERY selfish. Now, I am NOT saying that all people who aren’t Christians are selfish. On the contrary, some of the people in my life who aren’t Christians are some of the least selfish people I know! However, for me personally, after I became a Christian, my mom’s lessons and sacrifices became more apparent to me and I started to apply them more to my life.  For example, in the past several years, I have started to care more about hurting people in my life and online. I credit this partly to my mom’s example she gave to me of unselfish sacrifice over the years.
  2. J—She is my mentor and friend.  She has impacted my life in that she changed my future by believing that I could get a job and drive a car when I felt no one else did.  She also helped me go through the process of finding the job that I have now.  Her perseverance and her spirit of never giving up on me when everyone else seemed to, helped me through these past five years have hope and courage to recreate my dreams and even gave me the courage to write this blog!  Despite all the stresses in her life, she, like my mom, always puts others before herself.
  3. Erica* (*=NOT her real name)–She has been my friend for almost 11 years!  She has accepted and loved me even when I was being difficult or demanding.  She has a true heart for other cultures and wants to share the love of Christ with everyone around her.  She is one of the most genuine Christians I have ever met. Yes, like all of us, she does occasionally sin. However, she is honest and upfront about her struggles and most everything. She is also pretty level-headed and doesn’t lose her temper easily, if at all.  I also want to strive to be more like her in these ways. I, too, want to strive to be honest and genuine in all my dealings with people.  I strive to be loving and accepting of others, as she is.
  4. Kelly * (*=not her real name)–I’ve been her friend for about five, if not more, years.  Like Erica, she is also honest about her struggles and triumphs.  She takes the time to care about people in ways they may or may not normally expect. For instance, even though she is busy with school and work, she took the time to make a beautiful bracelet for my birthday, not to mention paying the shipping costs to get it from the place where she lives (not too close by) to my home.  She also tries her very best to listen to other people’s concerns. When someone tells her that they were hurt by her, she tries to resolve the issue where the other person got hurt by her. She doesn’t let things slide, or offer obligatory excuses.  I strive to go the extra mile like Kelly to make sure people around me, whether, at home, work, or church feel cared about by me.  For instance, at work today, one of my managers was having a stressful day.  He totally did not expect this, but one of my guy friends and one of my gal friends got together and decided to let him know that yes, we do care about him and hope he feels better.  We did this by buying him his favorite snack and by getting him a card encouraging him through this tough time. I don’t do this to brag on myself or even my good friends, but to let people know how much Kelly’s care for me has inspired me to “pay it forward,” so to speak.
  5. Veronica* (*=not her real name)–I’ve been friends with her for a couple years, but her joy and enthusiasm for God and people has changed my life. Also, she was there for me when I got very upset at a situation at work, and in my life in general,  and broke down in tears. I was really depressed and angry at that time. However, her joy and encouragement to me to seek God and that I had a good purpose in life was what I needed to get back up on my feet again, so to speak.   Her joy and enthusiasm for life, even when things get tough, is what I want to cultivate for myself in my life. Because of her, and because of my experience three years ago where I almost died, I strive to find joy in life everyday. Sometimes, I do fail, but people like her keep me going even when I feel like giving up.

These five women have impacted my life the most not only because of their love and kindness but also because of their unselfish and caring attitudes toward me and others. What five women have most impacted your life? Why? Please feel free to comment.

A Letter to My 15-Year Old Self

DISCLAIMER: No negative comments about me allowed! This was mostly written three years ago, with some obvious recent edits. This is a very raw post for me, so please be sensitive in your comments. Thank you.  Also, this post deals with issues of depression, Eating Disorders and verbal abuse, so if that triggers you, please feel free to skip and read another post.

 

To my 15-year-old self:

 

Dear me,

I know you feel depressed and lonely. I know you feel that there is no hope for your life anymore. I know the bad memories of four years ago when you almost destroyed yourself by half-starving yourself and when you had no friends still dog your mind and soul.  I know that guy that told you recently that you would never drive, never amount to anything at all etch in your very soul.  I know you don’t have many people that you would consider a “friend.”  You see your immediate family (your dad, mom, and sibling) seemingly joyous and glad. But you wonder where “that zest, that greatness life is supposed to hold” is for you.

But please don’t despair. Don’t give up! I know you only have a handful of people that even want to talk to you at school at length and that you consider your buddies, if that. But you want a friend, a real friend. A friend that will give more than just an obligatory card or present on your birthday or on Christmas! A friend that will invite you to things and make you feel included. A friend that will not leave you even if you tell him or her all the sordid details of your past, even if you’re being selfish or just not being a good friend to them in general.  But, you know that teacher that is sometimes saying “hi” to you in the hallway and has a reputation for being nice? Well, she will become one of your good friends in the future.  Also, you will meet a better friend than even her in the future. His name? Jesus Christ. He will not only be your friend—He will be your Lord and Savior! He will never leave you. He will always be with you. He will forgive you for even your worst mistakes and moral failures. Because of your relationship with Jesus, you will have a loving and supportive church family (friends, if you prefer) and even many other people of all ages that will want to get to know you. The REAL you.

And your driving? You will be able to drive on your own to and from work with your car (which by the way won’t be your dream job and it will be rather far away from where you’re living now, but you will be content even in that job). You will be able to drive with confidence!  So, don’t listen to or take to heart what that guy that told you that you would never amount to anything and that you wouldn’t be able to drive. He’s not god and he’s not your future! Please don’t give up on your dream that one day you will be able to drive alone, and be joyful and fulfilled in life. Because though it seems out of reach, miracles can and will happen!

More importantly, because of Jesus, you will have purpose and meaning in your life that you never had before! You will love and serve Him! So, I urge you to keep searching for “that zest, that greatness that life is supposed to hold.”  Because you will find it!

Love,

Me (at 34)

 

Afterword: (to the readers): Please call 1-800-273-8255  (Suicide hotline) if you or someone you know is having suicidal thoughts. It can save a life.  Also, if you are feeling depressed or don’t know where your life is headed, please know that there is always hope as long as you are alive and you try your best. I hope my story will inspire you to not give up when things get tough because your pain will not last forever (even though it may seem that way) and joy and hope will once again permeate your life if you persevere.