Some Experiences That Changed My Life

     Everyone who has ever lived will go through at least one experience that will influence the trajectory of their lives.  I am no exception.  Several days ago, I was talking with some work friends about how each of us was like when we were children.  I attested to them that how I am now is almost nothing like I was when I was a child!  Yes, there are still a few similarities to my personality today, for I am the same person, but there has been a lot that has changed as well.  The experiences that I feel changed my life the most are these:

  1. Becoming a born-again Christian
  2. My brother moving away
  3. Getting my current job

If you have read my blog for very long, you know that I am a born-again believer in Christ. This event has by far influenced and changed the person I am and has given me much purpose in my life.  Right before I became a Christian, I was on the brink of despair and depression. I wanted to end it all, but right at about that point, I felt God’s presence and the need to know more about Him.  I started attending my childhood church, but quickly found out it wasn’t a good fit for me, and eventually found another church that more satiated my spiritual needs. In the past two years or so, I believe God led me to my current church, where I grew significantly in both knowledge and closeness to God.  Being a Christian has not only helped me to overcome most of my depression, but also improved the way that I relate to others. When I was younger, I used to be very rigid and selfish. In addition, since social cues have been sometimes a challenge for me, I didn’t know what exactly I was doing wrong!  This led me to feel very lonely and depressed.  However, when I learned about God’s love and how to cultivate a more unselfish lifestyle, that is where I learned the value of sacrifice. Thus, God was able to bless me with great friends that I didn’t deserve and, most of all, joy in my life.

Another event that changed my life is my brother moving away for school about two years ago.  Up until then, my brother has always lived with me, or if he lived somewhere else, he would eventually always come back home at least on the weekends.  Now, that he lives in another state, I have been forced to be more active socially.  I am in several online support groups, and I am more active at my church.  A more negative thing of having him move away, though, besides not being able to see him as much as I would like, is that if I need help with something that has to do with technology, I either have to handle it myself, or contact him via phone or Skype when he is available. Since he is often busy with his life, this makes fixing technological and mechanical problems in the house much more difficult.  

Yet another event that has changed my life is getting my current job. Before my current job, I was not working full-time, but only part-time.  Not only was my current job graciously offered to me, but about seven months later, I was able to get full-time! Since then, I have learned so much from all the people that work there.  Most of my managers have been very gracious and kind to me, and they have taught me so many things about my job and how to do it even better.  They have also helped me be a better person.  I now have the support of many of my co-workers and they, too, through their unique personalities and work styles, have taught me a lot about life and work. Most of all, the managers and many of the associates as well, have believed in me, even when I didn’t believe in myself.  This has helped me to be motivated to do my job even better than before and has given me the confidence that I need, in order to continue to learn new things and do a good job.

These are the three experiences I believe changed my life the most. Of course, many smaller events also have influenced and changed me, but these ones have had a tremendous impact on my life.  What experiences have changed your life the most? What did you learn from them?  Please feel free to share in the comments below.

Advertisements

You Are Loved

written November 8, 2018

I wake up at around 4:15 am to go to work. After I ate my early breakfast, I went to my bedroom to spend time with God. I was having a difficult time praying because I was so upset at some of my life’s circumstances and certain people that were irritating me, that I failed to focus on God at that moment. I also felt that God was far away from me and that I was very much alone.  I thought something like this: “Why is life so difficult for me? Why do I always mess up time and time again? Why is my life the way it is?”

God, being merciful and loving, wrapped His arms around me and surrounded me with His caring presence. He said, “Don’t you believe that I love you? Remember that I am here for you always, no matter what your circumstance or how many people upset you. I have your back, and I will do the best for you!”  Immediately, I felt a sense of peace and joy at being loved by the Creator of the universe! The angry thoughts disappeared, and I was able to go back to my prayers and bible study.

Even if you don’t believe in God, know that there is someone out there who cares about you, and who wants the best for you.  Sometimes, it may seem like we are alone, but then a precious soul comes into our lives and adds value to us. This has happened to me many times in my life. Besides my loving and great God, I am blessed to know that there are kind people at church, work, and most of all, my family, who really do have the best for me, when it is all said and done.  One person in particular my mentor J, has always believed in me and wanted the best for me. 

Sometimes, we don’t yet know what precious souls will have the most positive impact in our lives. When I was in school, I did not know how to make lasting friendships with others, so I thought maybe the only people that would positively and dramatically impact my life was my family.  However, in the past ten years, many people have helped me see life in a new and more positive light. J pushed me to believe that I could accomplish things that I thought I may never be able to do, and I did!  My friends at work and the management team at my work helped me to learn new things and encouraged me and believed that I could make a positive difference at my job.  My friends Veronica*, Kelly* and Erica* believed that I could touch many people’s lives, as they believed I did in their lives.  Because they loved me enough to encourage me through the good—and the tough times–and with God’s help, I am able to be who I am today!

So, if you are feeling discouraged and are going through emotional or physical pain, know that sometime and somewhere, you will meet your precious soul or souls that will encourage and love you through life.  It may not be today or tomorrow, but if you don’t give up, they WILL come.  I have struggled with thoughts that maybe people don’t really love me, or they just want to be with me so they could “use” or “take advantage” of me somehow. If you are in an environment where people regularly take advantage of or abuse you and you have no supports, I would encourage you to a.) Get out of the abusive environment as soon as you are able to. B.) Seek out support today, whether it be a member of clergy or a therapist or counselor. It has taken me many years to get to a point where I have a good support system, but trust me they are so worth everything I have ever experienced in my life.  It has taken me a long time to believe that people love me for who I am again, but I am so blessed to have those people now in my life, and I wouldn’t trade them for anything!

Believe that there are people that love you for you too, because no matter who you are, or what you have done, you are loved!

Lessons Learned From a Manager I Will Never Forget

It was a cloudy and cold February day in 2016. My mom and I just stopped by my current place of employment on the way from shopping and also to check the status of my application. The first person I met there was the HR manager, who, surprisingly, scheduled me an interview that same day at 1 pm—not enough time to prepare anything spectacular and change into nicer clothes, since it was almost lunchtime.

The second person I met was a woman, Anastasia,* who was also interviewing for a similar job, and she was dressed for the interview. We made small talk, while waiting to be interviewed.

The third person I met was the interviewer. I did not know this, at the time, but he was going to be my manager, Chris*.  I was very nervous while being interviewed. He asked me only one question, “How did you go above and beyond for a customer?” I answered, nervously stumbling over my words, that I would go to great lengths, even asking a manager for help if I was not able to help them myself, and praying for them if they wanted prayer.  Because I was so nervous, I was not even sure if I was going to be accepted for the job!

Chris was very busy, walking back and forth, between either stocking or doing returns and checking on the job offer process.  I had never seen a manager work that hard in my life!

About a half an hour after being interviewed, Anastasia and I both found out that we were accepted for the job! Anastasia accepted immediately, but I sought counsel from my loved ones, before accepting the job offer the next day.

After that, though I didn’t realize this at the time, that Chris would make such an impact on my life and teach me some important life lessons, I would never forget him:

Here are some of the lessons Chris taught me that can be applied to anyone’s life as well:

  1. Whatever you do, do it with all your heart.–Ever since I first met Chris, he never did anything half-heartedly. He always worked to ensure each customer had the best possible service experience possible. I remember once he gave the customer a discount because the product wasn’t priced correctly. He also made accommodations for associates’ schedules, understanding that they have a life outside of work too. Once, Chris gave me a Saturday off so that I could go to my good friend’s son’s graduation party. He also worked hard at what he did too, working extremely long hours and sacrificing everything  sometimes to ensure that things got done that needed to be.  Because I saw that he worked with all his heart, I became inspired also to never to do things half-heartedly whenever possible. I, too, found myself wanting to work with all my heart. This resulted in me being able to gain the respect of others and striving to be even better in what I did, as an associate.  Even my friend Mark* commented recently that Chris always worked so hard, even though people didn’t really appreciate him.
  2. Strive to know each person’s life story before judging them.— During my first year of knowing Chris, I had such a difficult time getting to really know or understand him. Thus, we had many conflicts. It was very difficult for me to think positively about him, because I had already judged him a certain way in my heart. However, when Chris told me about all the sacrifices he has had to make every day for the people at my workplace, including me, I was so filled with remorse and regret about not valuing him as I should have that I later cried in the break room.  He forgave me, but I had learned an important lesson that day: Not to judge people before knowing what they have to go through.  Plato, or someone, had said to be kind because everyone you meet is fighting a harder battle.  I find that when I learn each person’s life story, that I don’t judge them negatively anymore, but I become filled with more compassion and understanding of what they have had to go through on a daily basis. Thanks to the lesson that Chris taught me about this, I have met some of the most genuine and compassionate people through taking the time and effort to learn their life story a bit more.
  3. Work to value each person in your midst, or you will regret it when they are gone or leave you.— During that first year when Chris was my manager, I don’t think I really valued him. I never knew that one day I would be faced with the reality that I would probably never get to see him again, and that I would regret that year to this day. I was so consumed with anger and bitterness towards him, that I was blind to the light in his soul.  However, one of my pastors, Pastor John,* helped me to release that junk to God, and later our work relationship was able to be redeemed. Unfortunately, Chris would be moved to another area of the store altogether, and then to a different shift altogether.  I still got to talk to him, but much less than before.  My heart hurts knowing that I will never be able to redeem the time that I lost that first year to bitterness, anger, and resentment that should have never occurred.  I should have valued him much more—because not only did he give me the opportunity to be employed at my current job, but he taught and gave me so much that I will never be able to adequately repay.  So, we should learn to value each person that walks our path, because they all can teach us something to better our life. Sometimes, they can even change our lives for the better—and those are the people we should keep close to our hearts before we lose them altogether.

When we are passionate and diligent about what we do with our lives, when we learn about others before judging them and when we work to value each person that is in our midst, we will make the world a better place.  Though I know that my time with Chris, just as with everyone else, is limited, I will always be thankful for what he has done for my workplace and for me, and the impact he has made in my life.

 

*=names have been changed to protect the privacy of the individuals mentioned.

On Gratitude and Entitlement

There is a mentality in most Western societies that we are entitled certain rights, such as freedom, respect, and the pursuit of happiness.  A few people have even taken this to such an extreme that they see most people as peasants serving them (the god or goddess) of the universe—a narcissistic mentality!  However, what if we lived lives that were opposite this mentality?  What if we realized that no one really owes us anything on this green planet, and that everything good we get is really a gift? There have been countless studies done that have shown that gratitude helps not only boost our mood levels, it can help alleviate many physical ailments as well.

One way we can show gratitude is in how we treat others.  I think one aspect of showing gratitude for the people that are in our lives is by treasuring them.  Never treat anyone as if they were dispensable or take someone for granted. Unfortunately, most people, including me, have taken someone for granted at one point or another in our lives. We assumed that they would always be there for us to serve our needs and make us happy. However, if we realized just how much of an impact they have made in our lives, and how limited a time we may have with these people, we might treat them more as royalty, rather than as slaves or servants.

Another way we can show gratitude to other people is by giving grace to them. My definition of showing grace to people is to loving them, flaws and all, being willing to learn from them, and by forgiving them. We love others by not giving up on them even after they have made a mistake or hurt you.  Yes, there may be situations in which we cannot be with someone after they hurt us because they pose a physical or emotional threat to our safety and that of other loved ones. However, that does not mean we should harbor hatred or bitterness towards them, as it will only hurt us in the end, not the offender.  I know several people who have hurt me emotionally, and who I initially had bitterness and anger towards them, but then when I forgave them, the relationship was able to be restored.  We should also be constantly striving to learn from the people around us, both for our and their benefit. We learn so that we can understand the people around us better and form stronger connections with others. We also learn from others so that we can better care for those around us. Finally, we learn from others in our appreciation for their uniqueness and what they contribute to this world—including ourselves.

However, when we harbor an entitlement attitude, this erodes our ability to be grateful for those in our lives. First of all, an entitlement mentality brings about complaining and judgments against others, especially when they don’t meet what we perceive to be our needs. For instance, the gunman in the recent Mercy Hospital shooting had wanted the engagement ring from his ex-fiancee back so badly that he felt like he had to kill to get it.(1) In other words, the gunman felt that she owed him the ring that he gave her back because they broke up, and he judged her to be a wicked person because she probably did not want to give it back to him.

This same entitlement attitude also impedes forgiveness and reconciliation because of the element of pride in entitlement.  Proud people are not inclined to forgive others because they think they are always right and that the other party “deserves”their anger and bitterness.  Forgiveness requires some measure of humility because part of forgiveness is the willingness to share in some of the consequences of someone else’s sin.  For instance, if you forgive a family member for their alcoholism and the effects of it, you may still have to deal with their recovery process or deal with a couple of relapses. However, if you are not willing to forgive and feel that they owe you something back, then reconciliation and freedom from the effects of the offense will not really be possible. 

Another way we can show gratitude is by being thankful for the material possessions given to us. One way to be grateful for our material possessions is by enjoying them.  Enjoying them does not mean being wasteful or taking what we have for granted.  Enjoying our material possessions means to be joyful in interacting with our gifts. It also means being grateful to those who gave them to us.  Another way we can be grateful for the material possessions we have is to see them as gifts, not as wages owed us. When we see possessions as gifts, we are often more appreciative of them, especially when we know that someone sacrificed financially to give them to us.

However, an entitlement attitude completely destroys our joy and gratitude in the things we are given. This is because it completely devalues the gift and giver, since instead of something to be treasured and enjoyed, we have it because we “deserve” it,or it is “owed” to us.  We may not enjoy the gift or gifts as much, because of the fear of it being destroyed or devalued.  Also, an entitlement attitude toward the material possessions we have encourages greed and selfishness, because it breeds the further mentality of being “owed” more than we have now. It also breeds selfishness because, with an entitlement attitude, we are often less willing to share our material goods to those in need. We think we “earned” these gifts,and that no one should take them away from us.

What a difference we could make if we strove to be more grateful for each person and each gift we were given! However, when we have an entitlement attitude and are ungrateful for the grace that is given to us each day, we lose our joy and love in life and for others.  Since it is a time to give thanks, who in your life, can you thank today?  Maybe write them a note of gratitude, or tell them in person how much they mean to you. As for the many material gifts we are blessed with, enjoy them, but also be willing to share with those in need so that they can have joy too.

Sources:

  1. Gorner, Jeremy, Annie Sweeney and Elyssa Cherney. (2018, November 20).Gunman in Mercy Hospital attack had threatened to shoot up Chicago Fire Academy, officials say. Chicago Tribune.  p. 1, Retrieved from : https://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/breaking/ct-met-chicago-mercy-hospital-shooting-juan-lopez-20181120-story.html

Power of Identity

Our church has a special class on Thursday nights that has helped me overcome my bad habits and has gotten me more insight into living in a more godly way. Last Thursday, in that class, the teacher–Pastor Jack Lezza– taught on identity.  One of the questions he posed to us was this: Why do children dress up on Halloween?  Well, why does anyone like dressing up in a costume?  He said that people dress up because they want to pretend that they are someone else.  This is the many wonders of children’s imagination. The problem becomes when adults morph into identities that negatively influence their behaviors and course of life. Take Cesar Sayoc, who mailed bombs to kill various government officials that he hated, for instance.  He wanted to be a crusader that got rid of what he saw he were “evil” people in this country.  His identity and those he identified his enemies as had great influence on the destructive behaviors that have now landed him in prison.

I believe that most of us start seriously identifying who we will become as adults in our adolescent years. We start asking ourselves, mostly subconsciously, the question–“Who am I?”  Some teens rebel against their parents’ rules because they are trying to solidify their own identity, apart from who their parents, or anyone else, for that matter, would like them to be.  This is also the time when most parents give their children significantly more independence, like the ability to drive a car, for instance.  Teens also look for a peer group, often called “cliques” that they identify with and with which they want to belong.

 However, sometimes during that time, and even, in some cases, during childhood, we can start claiming identities for ourselves that have the potential to be a destructive influence on our behavior and course of life. I call these broken or destructive identities because of their negative impact on one’s behavior.  For instance, for a long time, I have believed (and am continuing to struggle to let go of) the identity of “Miss Never-Good Enough.” Yes, this identity has helped me to have high expectations of myself and not be lazy, but the destructive part of this identity is that it has not allowed me to make mistakes, even as part of the learning process. This broken identity also has caused me, in the past, to be too reluctant to learn how to do things that I wasn’t confident in doing. Thus, I had a hard time moving forward in my learning process because of my tendency towards perfectionism and my claimed identity of “Never Good Enough.” I had claimed this identity because many people didn’t believe in my God-given abilities to do certain things and because of many years of bullying by some of my peers. 

We can claim broken or destructive identities mainly through negative experiences, especially if we were being verbally abused by people who we had once admired or had great authority over you—such as a teacher or close relative. This verbal abuse greatly influences us to believe and claim these broken and destructive identities and eventually becomes part of who we are (or believe we are) as a person. 

In order to change these identities, we need to change the way we think about ourselves.  We need people on our side that will encourage us to live in a more positive identity and will not reinforce our broken identity in any way.  For instance, in my case, I have some good friends at church, my mentor J,  and also some at my job who encourage me to break up with the “Miss Never Good Enough” identity by reminding me of the good I have done and how I have positively impacted their lives.  Without these people, I wouldn’t be able to be where I am today. We also need to constantly remind ourselves that we can make a positive difference in others’ lives and that we don’t have to be said broken identity, whether it is Ms. Or  Mr. Not-Good-Enough or the false, destructive identity of Ms., Mrs., or Mr. Worthless, or any other destructive identities that we have believed ourselves to be. We need to replace these broken and destructive identities with a positive identity that will help us to be successful and more motivated to be who we were meant to be. 

Positive identities are those that encourage us to live out who we were meant to be all along.  These true, positive identities may include such identifiers as Mr. or Ms. Kind, Compassionate, Caring, Intelligent, Generous, Gracious, and Forgiving.  My personal favorite identity is “Child of God” and “Ms. Perseverance.” One way you can cultivate a positive identity for yourself is to think of things that others like about you and make yourself a name tag that has that personality characteristic on it.  For instance, if others say you are a thoughtful person, make yourself a name tag, “Ms.” or “Mr. Thoughtful” and put it somewhere prominent where you will be reminded to live out this identity.

How we identify others also has great impact on us and our behaviors.  When people develop prejudices against others, for instance, their negative identification of a group of people other than them impacts how they treat them and those around them.  For instance, the gunman who recently murdered 11 people in a synagogue had deep-seated hatred for Jewish people. If said gunman instead had served and loved Jewish people or didn’t have any prejudices against Jews, this incident would have never happened. 

So, how exactly do we overcome our prejudices?  First of all, when we get prejudiced ideas about a particular group of people, it is best to learn about them and their ways.  When we learn more about the people we had hatred or prejudice against before, we often find that they are not that different from us. Moreover, we can understand them better and their true identity, and often find beauty in their identity.

Another way we can overcome prejudice and placing negative identities on another person or people, is to replace these with positive identities.  For instance, there were several people at work that I did not get along with in the past, but when I purposely tried to see the light in them, that is, their positive personality characteristics, I was able to have more love and compassion for them than I have ever had before!  This helped me get along with these people a lot better. When we strive to identify, even our enemies, positively, instead of negatively, we can change the world for the better. 

As you can see, identities—both the ones we give ourselves and the ones we assign to others-greatly influences our behavior.  When we cultivate negative identities for ourselves and others, we only cultivate destruction and negativity. However, when we cultivate positive identities for ourselves and others, we can better live out what we were meant to be. 

Finding Your Legacy

With everything good and bad that has happened to me this week, I have been thinking more and more about what kind of impact I am having in this world. I hope to leave a positive impact on as many people as possible.  However, it wasn’t until maybe five years ago that I started seriously living intentionally to leave a positive legacy. Yes, I still strived to be kind and positive to others before then, but it was much less thought out. When things are more intentional, there is more passion and impact in both your actions and purpose.  Here is what I learned about finding my legacy and striving every day to live it out:

  1. In order to create a legacy that you want to leave this world with you must find your life’s purpose.– You cannot create a legacy that you would be proud of leaving if you are living aimlessly, because you will be too distracted by the goals and dreams of those around you, and the environment around you. In order to find your life purpose, you first need to ask yourself: “What do I value the most in life?” For me, I value glorifying God in everything I do and say, and the quality of my relationships with God and others.  In order to find out what you value, ask yourself what you spend most of your time doing.  If you spend the majority of your time hard at work, for instance, it means that you value your job highly.  If you spend most of your time cultivating relationships with others, it means that you value personal relationships more. Then, after you determine what you value, ask yourself: a) Am I what I valuing now going to contribute to leaving a legacy in my life that I want to leave. If so, ask yourself: How can I fulfill what I was made to do? For instance, I believe God has made me to write about what He teaching me in life and sharing it with others.  So, I need to ask myself: What do I need to write about to make maximum positive impact on the world around me? How can I convey what I want to say most effectively? Who do I need to write to? What do I need to do to improve my writing skills?  Then, after you find the answers to these questions, work to tailor everything you to do to accomplish that purpose.  If you think what you value now isn’t going to make the impact you want to, you need to change what you value to better tailor to the legacy you want to leave.
  2. Value the important.—In order to create a good legacy, you must value what is important to the memory you want to make.  I would suggest writing down, or at least, pondering these following questions to determine what you want to value in creating a lasting legacy: 
    •  How long will what I value last?—I would submit, the longer the person or thing you value will last, the more your legacy will most likely will be remembered and followed. For instance, if all you care about is money, and ways to get the most money in life without regard to giving some of it to those in need, when you die, the only legacy you will leave is how stingy and selfish you were. Hardly a legacy anyone would want to leave; I think!  However, if you care about spreading love to others, the impact of your acts of kindness and sacrificial love would be felt by many generations to come.
    • Is this going to matter in the long term?—So many times, we, me included, get worried or upset over things that won’t even last long! For instance, I know people who will get super-offended if you don’t say “Hi” to them when you pass by them. First of all, maybe that person passing by you was so busy that they didn’t even see you. Second of all, do you even remember all the people around you who said “Hi” to you this past week? If the thing that is upsetting you won’t likely be remembered next month or even next year, let it go.  Let. It. Go. 
    • What sacrifices am I willing to make with what I value?–In order to truly value something; we must be willing to make sacrifices for it. For instance, if I say I value God, am I willing to sacrifice for Him? For another example, if I were married (I’m not, by the way), would I be willing to make necessary sacrifices for my husband to show I truly love him and want him to have joy in his life?  If you say you value someone or something, you should be willing to make sacrifices for them.
  3. Believe in your purpose.—In order to create an effective legacy, you must believe in your life’s ultimate purpose.  As I reiterated already, you must be willing to sacrifice other less important things to accomplish your life purpose.  You must be willing to live your purpose, and not quit when something else enticing, but distracting, threatens to cloud your view of your life purpose.  Also, the ultimate show of your belief in your life purpose is how vocal you are about it, both in your words and actions. If you are passionate about who you were created to be, it will show up in your discussions and focus with others, and will creep up in every aspect of your lifestyle. 

Personally, finding my legacy has been an adventurous and insightful journey for me.  I want to create a legacy where I love, first and foremost, God, but also the people here on earth.  Yes, sometimes I may fail at that, but overall I want to be the type of person who, overall, never quits loving and caring about others. What do you want your legacy to be? Finding your legacy is important to having a purposeful and fulfilling life. I know finding mine has made joy possible for me.

My Hero, My Friend

You are a gift from the great God

Your sunshine grows more every day

As I see the light in your heart

Even when miles pull us apart

 

Your service has protected me

From many dangers and despair

I’m so sorry I couldn’t see

The great hero in front of me

 

But now I see your gallant love

For your country and fellow man

Your great compassion from above

And the great beauty in your soul