To Those On Their Last Rope

Disclaimer: May trigger—mentions issues surrounding depression, self-harm, bullying, and suicide.

Intro:  Many people I know around me are struggling, not only physically, but emotionally as well.  As you may know, I have struggled with depression with many years, and I just wanted to share the hope I found with them—and with anyone here, reading this that may be struggling as well, that there is hope.  If you are feeling strongly suicidal or need someone right away to talk to, please call this number: 1-800-273-8255. It’s free and there are trained professionals that can help you through this tough time, so you never have to be alone.

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Dear Friend,

I see that you have been struggling so much lately.  You may wonder through your daily routine, “ Is this life really worth it? “ You wonder if your suffering, your pain, will ever end.  You wonder if anyone really cares about you—or each other– for that matter.  You may not wonder these questions out loud, but subconsciously, you do.

I sometimes wonder these same things.

When I was in my sophomore year of high school, the pain was sometimes so great, I wondered if I had the strength to go on in life. I considered (more than once) a way to end my own life.  . In one of my diary entries from that time, I had written: “I wish I could be more […] effervescent (lively). I feel dead without being physically killed. I hope I don’t die emotionally, but I am dying. If I could only find that zest, that greatness life is supposed to hold. But where is it, at least in me?”

I also see that you are emotionally dying.  The spark, that smile, that I once saw, is now faded.  You seem really stressed and broken inside—like I was when I was in my sophomore year of high school.  I know you now see joy in my spirit, and a bounce in my walk. You also may think that “everyone likes me.” However, know that this was not always the case.

When I was in school, I struggled with being bullied, almost on a constant basis.  People would mock my way of dress, my hairstyle, and even how I looked.  This almost drove me to suicide, several times in my life.

Because of my history of being bullied, and being regularly excluded by my peers, I never really like I “fit in.”  I felt that in order to be part of any group, I had to beg. Then, maybe someone would feel sorry for me, and hang out with me for a while. That would, of course, never last for too long.

Then, in high school, I had an instructor that basically made me feel like I was worthless and would never amount to much in my life. I had almost no friends that could uplift and encourage me during that tough time, and this was before I knew about God’s love and presence in my life. I didn’t feel like I could talk to my family because I had assumed that they would not be able to really relate to my problems. Also, I had felt hopeless that I would find anyone around me who would truly accept who I was, inside and out. I didn’t think anyone would be able to really love me, especially if they really knew who I was inside.

Sometimes, I hear that you are being mocked and bullied by those around you too, and for that I am sorry.  I wish I could do more than just offer an encouraging word to you. I wish your bullies would know how much damage they are inflicting against your soul and your Creator as well, and repent of (i.e..stop) their bullying behaviors.

Know though that you are a valuable creation.  No one in the world is exactly like you (even if you have an identical twin!), and no one can touch the world in exactly the way you do!  Sometimes, I know you feel that you can’t do much positive, or live a legacy worth living.  However, that is the depression speaking, and it is lying!  Even if you are bed bound, you still can make an impact by greeting people who visit you with a cheerful and positive attitude, despite your pain and suffering. This will then make people look inside themselves, and say, “ Even with all the stuff that I’ve been through, I am grateful that even if I become bedbound, that I could make someone else smile!”

Also, reach out and get the help you need. You are NOT weak for asking for or needing help. On the contrary, depression is often a sign that you have tried to be strong too long. Know that you are not alone in your struggles. I sometimes still struggle too, but I know that there is hope for me.

I find that hope in a relationship with God and knowing that I am still able to make an impact on this world. It’s never too late to do something positive with your life—as long as you are still here!

So, what happened to me since high school?

I continued to struggle, off and on, with depression and suicidal thoughts, through my early twenties, though it was less than before I knew God’s love.

Then, about twelve years ago, I found a church that embraced me, and some friends who were willing to support and love me through the long haul. I am still in contact with some of them today.  I am eternally grateful that God brought me to that church.  I explored my passions for helping others and also began to write more often.

About two years ago, one of my managers, Chris* (NOT his real name), interviewed me for a position at my current job.  This position I still hold to this day.  Then, about a year ago, God brought me to another church, which has shown me how to love others, at a deeper level than I have ever known before.  Both, through my current job and my church, I have found a joy and love that I had only dreamed of before.

It may take a long time to realize your dreams, but it is never too late to start somewhere. Don’t give up. There is always a light at the end of the tunnel.

Sincerely,

Patricia

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My Dreams

(written on : April 29, 2018)

Dedicated to all my co-workers and managers at my current job

I dreamed of the day

When I would be here

And leave a mark

Lasting until my dying day

 

I dreamed of the day

When I would be loved and valued

For not just the person I could be

But for the person they already see

 

And now my dreams have come true

God has worked in and through me

Now I can see

A bright future coming up ahead of me

 

So, I dream of the day

When the Love and Joy I found

Will become real to you

And fill you too

How to Find Someone’s Spark

Written in honor of Rachel Joy Scott, the first Columbine martyr, and the one who lived an amazing life, full of love and faith

Many times in my life, whether it would be people at school (when I was attending), at work, and even in the churches I attended; people have broken off contact with someone because of a couple bad incidents.  So, maybe they were really bad! Still, I think the following that Rachel Scott wrote in her essay, “My Ethics, My Codes of Life, “deserve serious consideration and application to our relationships:

[I]magine you had just met someone, and you speak to them three times on brief, everyday conversations. They come off as a harsh, cruel, stubborn and ignorant person. You reach your judgment just on these three encounters. Let me ask you something…did you ever ask them what their goal in life is, what kind of past they came from, did they experience love, did they experience hurt, did you look into their soul and just at their appearance? Until you know them and not just their “type,” you have no right to shun them. You have not looked their beauty, their good. You have not seen the light in their eyes. Look hard enough and you will always find a light, and you can even help it grow, if you don’t walk away from those three impressions first.

So, how can we find the light, or the positive parts of another’s personality, particularly if they do come off as cruel, stubborn, harsh, ignorant, or negative in any way to us?  How can we not give up on our relationships when things get tough?  How can we prevent ourselves from writing off people who we disagree with, or who aggravate us sometimes? (Note: This does not apply to situations of abuse or people who are genuinely unsafe to be around).  How can we cultivate a passion for loving those who are initially undesirable in some way to us? Here is what I learned about finding someone’s spark, or light, in their soul and how I would help it grow:

  1. Strive not to make snap judgments of others.—Much of our society makes snap judgments based on things that won’t matter in eternity, such as physical appearance and social class. I believe this is very sad, not only because many people in our world write off people who could be very kind and gentle inside, just because of something trivial like their physical appearance or how much money they make, but also because these judgers will not be able to grow past their preconceived notions of others and cultivate growing relationships with others.  Unfortunately, even making snap judgments about someone’s character is not effective in gauging who would be a good friend.  For instance, I know of several people at work who I initially did not get along with well.  Most people, if they were in my place, would probably quit their job and/or avoid these people at all costs.  However, God prevented me from doing so.  In addition, I even had to interact with most of these people on at least a weekly, if not, daily basis!  One thing I learned from having to interact with these people was not to make snap judgments of them, and instead look for their light in their souls.
  2. Learn their life stories.—Another thing that can help us find the spark in someone, is to learn some of their life story. Find out what kind of past they came from—what they had to endure to get to where they are now. Find out how they were treated in the past, if they have ever experienced true, sacrificial (agape) love, and not just a flippant form of “love,” what hurts and triumphs they have experienced in their lives?  When I learned some of the life story about someone that I initially did not really like, I began to understand why they acted like they did and began to have compassion and even love for them. When we are able to appreciate what someone we may not initially get along with, has gone through, I find that we are more able to relate to and/or have compassion for them.
  3. Do intentional acts of kindness for them.—What I have had to learn to do with certain people with whom it was difficult to get along is to intentionally be kind to them. This won’t work if you do this only out of obligation or because you say “I’ll be the better person” but inside you are still full of anger and resentment towards them.  However, if you strive to be kind to even those who you dislike, in order to show them the love they probably so desperately need, then the light in their souls will most likely start to expose itself.  For instance, if you live next to a grumpy neighbor, but he keeps a neat yard, compliment him on his maintenance of the yard.  Tell him how much you appreciate his hard work and dedication to do his part to make the neighborhood look neat.  Be genuine in your compliment, of course, but also don’t be afraid to encourage others in need.  For another example, I have had coworkers who I have had trouble dealing with at first, but when I tried to encourage them in something good that they did and tried to help them with their work, I found that I got along much better with them! Not only that, but I found some positive qualities in them that I had not taken the time to find before!

When we strive not to judge against people whom we initially not see eye-to-eye, when we strive to learn more about others’ life stories, and when we intentionally strive to be kind to those we don’t  like, at first, then we will be able to find the light in these people’ s souls.  When we find the light in them, we can help their light grow by continuing to apply these principles to our relationship with them. May we do that, and make the world a better place.

 

Source: Scott, Rachel Joy. My Ethics, My Codes of Life. March 1999. Retrieved from: https://rachelschallenge.org/media/media_press_kit/Code_of_ethics.pdf.

Light at the End of the Tunnel

 –dedicated to a friend that is going through some tough times right now

Tormented in your soul

The pain threatening

To swallow you whole

As your dreams shatter in pieces

 

They treated you

Like a piece of trash

To be used and then thrown away

And not allowing you to have any say

 

I grieve in my heart for you

Because they never gave you

The love that was pure and true

A love that never falters or ends

 

But I have a great hope

That even though you

Reached the end of your rope

You will at last

Find love that is pure and true

Finding Joy in a Stressful Work Environment

I have been working as a sales associate for my current company for just over two years now, and I love it. However, sometimes the work and pressure can be very stressful, even for me.  I know I am not alone, and that working in any company does have its share of stressors, even if the environment has a reputation of being somewhat casual. Yes, there are times when one must quit, especially if the job is not the right fit for them or if the pressures of work start to negatively impact your physical and emotional health.  However, sometimes quitting is either not an option, or is not worth it.  So, how can one not only survive the stress at work, but also find joy and satisfaction in daily work? Here are some things I have learned over the past few years about how to have some measure of joy, even when some things are stressful:

  1. Go to work not only for the paycheck, but also for a higher purpose.—So many people in our society, go to work solely for the paycheck. While that can be a good motivator to do a good job, that is not always an effective way to maintain joy in stressful situations, especially if layoffs or the cutting of hours is happening in your company. For instance, while I admit that I do go to work for a paycheck; that is not my only motivator.  I also go to work so that I can make a positive difference in other people’s lives and serve God.  I enjoy helping other people—whether it is helping a customer find an item they need, or speaking words of encouragement to a co-worker or manager who is stressed-out or hurting inside.  For instance, if you work in a doctor’s office, you can work to help patients be more comfortable in the waiting room by giving them quick, efficient service, or just by being a positive, encouraging presence to them. If you flourish as an author and/or a blogger, find ways to help others be passionate about what you write about.
  2. Along with going to work for a higher purpose overall, find at least one person each day with whom you will intentionally be kind and encouraging.– This could be someone who you know is going through a rough time, someone who is a little bit difficult to get along with, or it could be anyone else. For instance, one day when I had some extra free time, I decided to write encouraging notes to people at work who I thought needed it the most. However, you could even do something as simple as getting to know someone who is lonely or that you don’t normally talk to, or saying encouraging words of appreciation to a co-worker that is doing a good job. A few of you may think this is just cheesy and won’t make a bit of a difference, but as Rachel Scott, once said, “You never know how far a little kindness can go.” Being intentionally kind to those who are feeling depressed and anguished inside, even though they may appear to have a smile pasted on their faces, may even save their lives!
  3. Be willing to help out when needed.—If time and energy allow, be willing to work earlier or stay later to get what you (or others) need to done. That way, the pressure and stress of having to do all that work in a shorter amount of time does not leave you, or anyone else, frazzled and stressed out.If you work in an office, and your coworker needs copies made of a certain document, offer to help out, especially if you also have some copies to make. If you work in a team, be willing to help out a struggling team member. Don’t allow them to take advantage of you, but also be willing to teach them how to work more effectively and learn the concepts needed to do the job well.  If you are that struggling team member, do not be afraid to ask for help and clarification, but also don’t give up on trying to do the best you can.
  4. Look for the positives of working at your company, and don’t focus too much on the negatives.—Every company has both positive and negative traits to it. We usually hear WAY more about the negatives. While there can be benefits to talking about the “What-needs-to-improve” part of the companies we work for, if we are also actively seeking solutions to the negative parts, our morale can drastically improve if we focus more on the positives! For instance, the positives for me in working at my company are good hours, a common camaraderie among most of the people I work with, and that most of the managers are understanding and kind. When I focus on the good parts of my company rather than the bad, it makes the stressful parts a lot easier to handle.  I have hope that even in the stress and tough times, things will get better because of the positives that I have experienced.  This principle also works when you have to work with or under a person or persons that you don’t particularly like.  Find the positives in that person that you have a tough time getting along. If you can’t find any just yet, look deeper into that person’s soul and being until you find something positive. 95% of the time, you will find at least one positive quality about them.

These are the ways that I seek to find joy at my job, and it has worked most of the time for me.  If I don’t focus on these things, and delve into negativity, I find that I am more stressed and that even my work quality suffers.  So, I know that by applying these principles to my work life, I will not only be more joyful at my job, but also more effective. What are some ways YOU maintain a measure of joy at work, even when things are stressful? Please feel free to comment.

Practical Life Lessons From Ephesians For Everyone

I realize not everyone believes in the Bible, though I do. However, these life lessons that are drawn from a book of the Bible called Ephesians, I think can apply to most anyone, regardless of religious belief.  These lessons are drawn from my own life experiences, and occasionally, also from those around me whom I have observed and heard.

Without further ado, here is the passage where I will focus:

Wherefore putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbour: for we are members one of another.

Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath:

Neither give place to the devil.

Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labour, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth.

Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers.

Ephesians 4:25-29 (KJV)

 

Here are some of the life lessons that I learned from these verses:

  1. It is better to be honest, because honesty unites, but lying separates close friends.–Even gossip can be a form of lying, as I have realized the hard way at work. A lot of people have spread rumors about certain people at work. Most of them were not founded in an ounce of truth! I have seen these rumors influence how others thought and acted towards these people, without finding out from the source as to whether these statements were true or not.  To think we acted or spoke in hurtful ways towards another because of unproven rumors we heard about someone! What I learned from this is to a.) Try not to listen to rumors, especially if you don’t know the truth in it, and b) Try to verify from the source or sources of the rumors themselves the veracity of the rumors. It is often not as dramatic and bad as it has been related. For another example, when we learn people’s life stories (Post on that is at this link) and people are vulnerable and honest with each other, I find that these things often unite people. Before I really knew one of my managers, I hated him.  I didn’t understand why he had aggravated me so much. However, one day, when he told me about some of the pain he went through in his life, and God intervened in our lives, the hate and aggravation that I felt for him began to melt away and be replaced with only love and compassion.  When I honestly tell other people my life story, people also begin to act with more love and compassion towards me.
  2. Don’t let anger fester in your heart for more than a day, lest it turn into bitterness and resentment later. –Because, in the past, I had held grudges against certain people for a really long time (literally, years), my spiritual and emotional growth were stunted.  Yes, I did grow, but not as much as I should have.  I now realize why I had trouble applying some spiritual principles to my life at the time.—I held grudges, and thus couldn’t receive God’s (or anyone else’s, for that matter) forgiveness in my life.  It was only when I let go of these long-standing grudges and intentionally began to act with kindness and grace towards my offenders, that I started to grow spiritually the way God (and, frankly, I as well) wanted to for so long.  Now, my policy is to try to resolve issues that I have with a person within a day, or a week, at the very latest.  However, I try my very best to follow the day rule prescribed in Scripture. This way, my anger dissipates quickly, and I can be at peace with that person as soon as possible.  I wish everyone followed this principle because this can have practical benefits to not only other people, but also our own emotional growth as well. When people succumb to bitterness and resentment towards others, and hold grudges, I find that they get discouraged and disgruntled more easily than those who let go.  These grudge-holders are often the first to complain, and the last to say “thank you”.  Don’t let resentment and bitterness rule over you. Let. It. Go.
  3. Live to encourage others, not put down others.—There is a saying that goes like this: Sticks and stones will break my bones, but words will never hurt me. Nothing could be further from the truth! I’m sure each one of you has been hurt by the sting of condescending and demeaning words before. Almost twenty years ago, one of my teachers almost destroyed my motivation to live and help others. He never beat me up physically, but I still feel the sting of his words today.  Some of my peers, who bullied me at school, also said things to hurt me.  Though I  wish these people nothing but the best, words can still have a crippling effect on me.  Because I know the pain of hurtful words, I strive to encourage others as much as possible. Yes, I fail at times at encouraging others, as we all do, but we must do our best.  I want to only speak words that will help and/or uplift someone‘s spirit.  I want others to be able to see that I value and care about them, especially through how and what I speak to them.  If we live to encourage, and not tear down, we may be able to save the lives of people that have almost given up emotionally, as we revive their spirits.

These are some of the life lessons I learned from Ephesians 4. When we are honest, and not deceptive with one another, when we resolve our anger and problems quickly to be at peace with others, and when we live to encourage others, I believe we will lead more spiritually and emotionally successful lives.  May we live with love and compassion for one another!

Because You Can : Not Letting People Limit Your Dreams

Dedicated to my mentor, J

Because I had problems “catching on” to certain things that most other people understood how to do easily, many people didn’t believe I would be able to get very far in life. One of my teachers even said, in so many words and by their actions, that I wouldn’t really amount to anything.  Sadly, I believed him for almost fifteen years. But then, I met my mentor, J, about seven or eight years ago. She changed my life! Here’s what I learned about life from her about not letting people or your own limitations get in the way of accomplishing your God-given dreams:

  1. Don’t take what the naysayers in your life say to heart.—There were a great number of people in my life that acted like or even said straight out that I wouldn’t be able to do this or that. I was often treated as if I would never be able to said thing, without even letting me try it first.  It was as if they were afraid that the inevitable (i.e:  failure) would happen.  For instance, in one job I had, I wanted to move up in the company.  I wanted to cross-train, and then become full-time.  My boss at the time told me flat-out that I wouldn’t be good at doing said thing that I wanted to cross-train in. However, the problem with that was that I wasn’t even given the opportunity to train! So, how would they know that I wouldn’t be able to do said thing if it wasn’t even proven that I actually was bad at it? In retrospect, I should have pointed this fact out to my boss at the time, but was too discouraged to ask again. However, in contrast to the naysayers in my life, J pushed me to succeed and believed in my God-given abilities. She didn’t even pay mind to the people in my life that discouraged me from trying said things that they thought I couldn’t do, but helped me find a way to prove them all wrong instead.  Also, I am happy to say, my current job encourages everyone to cross-train, even me, whom others in my past said that I wouldn’t amount to all that I do now.  Various people that were in my life had said because of my past difficulties, I would not be even able to drive, get a job, or work full-time.  I’ve done all of that, because J was finally able to get me to stop listening to those naysayers.  If you are facing naysayers in your life right now, even if those include your own voices, do NOT listen to them!  Prove them wrong. Listen to the voices that believe in you and your dreams, and do what you can to make that dream come true.
  2. Be motivated to work hard.—What I have accomplished in my life wasn’t just magically handed to me on a silver platter. Some people who get jealous of others think that their object of their envy has or had it “easy.”  More often than not, the people who are jealous of others, including the ones jealous of me, want what we have for themselves. Furthermore, they do not realize how much effort it took for us to get this far.  It took me literally years to be able to get a full-time job. However, with the support of my mentor J, God’s perfect timing, and the will to work hard every day at whatever job I was in at the time, I was finally able to be full-time.  If you want to accomplish your dreams, it will take hard work and determination as well. Sure, we all have certain abilities and talents that make certain things easier for us than others.  However, someone once said that there are no shortcuts to any place worth going. There are no shortcuts to accomplish your dreams either. It will take time and hard work, but it will be so worth it in the end!
  3. Be patient, and don’t give up.—The more significant your dream or dreams, often, the longer it will take for you to realize the dream or dreams. However, do not give up! Be patient and persevere, even when you have some setbacks. For example, some of you may know that I have battled depression for years, and one of my unconscious goals was to find joy in my life. During the height of my depression, I just wanted to give up completely on my life, and end it all.  However, someone or something in me (probably, I believe, God in me) urged me on.  I listened to that voice inside me. Consequently, for the past year or so, I have had significantly fewer depressive episodes than I have ever had in my life!  For the first time in my life, I feel a sense of sustained joy.   For another instance, it took several months for my previous job, and several months from when I started to look for another opportunity, to find my current job. Before I found my current job, I was interviewed at a bookstore. I had really wanted to work at a bookstore, because I love to read. However, I found out quickly at the interview that I wasn’t a good fit for their company. Yes, I did get discouraged, but I didn’t give up looking for a job, and several weeks later I got an interview at my current job. The rest is history.

My mentor J has taught me many things about not giving up on my dreams, but the most important things she has taught me are:

  • Do not listen to the naysayers. Do not let what they say to you influence your heart or actions.
  • Be willing to work hard to accomplish your dreams.
  • Be patient, and don’t give up on your dreams.

If you seem to have  insurmountable obstacles in the way of accomplishing your God-given dreams, even if it is as simple as wanting to have joy in your life, start by telling yourself that it is not hopeless for you as long as you are alive.  Also, don’t listen to the people that tear you or your dreams down.  Take that first step towards your dream today, even if it is a little step. It will make all the difference. Because I believe that you can do it. You can!