Keep on Fighting

The s-word.    It carries more judgment, stigma, and heartache than any other word in the English language.  Yet it affects more people than we care to realize or notice, but we dare not talk about it.  According to the National Institute of Mental Health in the U.S, in 2017, a whopping 9.8 million people have had serious thoughts about wanting to commit suicide. 

I can relate to those 9.8 million people.  Having struggled with depression for over half a century, I have had those same thoughts of suicide.  However, because of Jesus, He has pulled me through every one of those episodes and has never given up on me. Additionally, Jesus has provided me with a great support system that will listen to and help me through whenever I feel this way, without judgment or condemnation. 

Unfortunately, not everyone struggling right now has an adequate or a good support system. The good news is that, we can strive to be a support to at least some of those around us who are struggling right now. The good news is that if you are struggling right now, there are resources and people who want to encourage you and give you the hope and encouragement I got through Jesus and my support system as well.  I would also like to share some things that my support of family and friends have collectively taught and reiterated to me over the years when I feel like life is just too much:

You are a survivor!

Like me, you may have encountered people that have betrayed and abused you.  But, then, Jesus will give you strength to survive them or He will take them out of your life.  Keep on fighting!

Like me, you may feel that your efforts to succeed in life are never enough, and that you always fall short.  Don’t worry. Jesus will provide the strength you need to truly succeed—maybe not as the rest of the world sees “success,” but more importantly, how He sees success. Keep on fighting!

Like me, you may feel sometimes that no one truly cares for you, or really knows you.  But, then, Jesus brings people into your life that will prove you wrong.  So, keep on fighting!

Like me, you may feel disconnected from society or that you don’t belong anywhere.  Then, Jesus will provide His Church and/or those around you to remind you that you do impact their live and that you do share a part of their heart. Keep on fighting!

Whatever you are going through and wherever you are in life, don’t give up! I almost did, but I am glad that Jesus didn’t allow me to end it all, because I never would have known the blessing of redemption and love!

You are a survivor! Keep on fighting!

Sources:

https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics/suicide.shtml#part_154973

Dying Well

I have been repeatedly reminded in these past few weeks that nothing on earth is going to stay the same or remain forever. To that end, I have also been reminded that one day I will pass from life on this earth, to life in eternity with God.  I have sensed in my heart that God has been whispering to me over and over again, “Patricia, you don’t have much time left.”  The following is the message I believe God is relaying to my heart, and also, I believe, God’s message to all of us, to live life so that we will die well:

I know no one wants to ponder their death. It all seems so depressing and final—but it doesn’t have to be.  Dying well, to me, does not mean having all the toys and grandeurs of this world. One can have that, and still not die well.  Dying well does not just mean being popular and having everyone love you.  To me, dying well means to have lived knowing you have fulfilled your purpose and that God will say to you when you come before Him, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

So, how does one fulfill his or her purpose? Well, first one needs to find out what it is!  I believe that my overarching purpose can be surmised in the Westminster Shorter Catechism, where it says, “The [purpose] of man is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever.” If you are a follower of Christ, that should be your purpose too. 

However, I think God gives us different assignments, if you will, to help us fulfill that purpose, through both our circumstances and the people He puts in our path.  For instance, despite the stresses that my day job brings, I believe He has and continues to use that job as a calling for me to minister to broken and hurting people around me and to strengthen my character.  In this job, I am learning, not only some marketable skills in my job, but also how to be more patient, kind, caring and at peace with life.  I have learned that anxiety gets me nowhere, but trusting God does.  When I cooperate with God in these lessons, I am much better able to fulfill His purposes for me.  When it is my time to depart this world, if I persevere in this and all other assignments He gives me to fulfill His purposes, then I would die well.  

Another example is my faith hero, Rachel Joy Scott. She became a Christian a few years before her death in April 1999, and God used people in her school, her church, and her job to strengthen and build her character and to be a dynamic example for those around her that would be recounted long after she had departed this earth.  Although Rachel died what many consider a tragic death, I think she died well, not because thousands of people came to her funeral, but because of the positive impact she had and continues to have in millions of people’s lives today because of how she had lived her life and fulfilled her God-given purpose.

I believe to truly die well, we must die to self. In fact, in Luke 9:23-24 (KJV), Jesus says, “ If any man should come after me, he must deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow me.  For whosoever will save his life shall lose it, but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it.”  Jesus is saying that in order to live, and, ultimately, die well, we have to be willing to give up our selfish desires, ambitions and hopes for the benefit of others.  I can attest to this fact in my own life. When I am thinking selfishly, I often find that I don’t get what I wanted anyway, and my life unravels before me. Not only that, people often lose respect for me, and I become an angry, resentful and bitter mess. However, when I humble myself and submit my desires and ambitions to God, I find that I am more at peace, no matter what my circumstances are, and things often go a lot more smoothly.  I also find the same is true for those around me.  Those around me who complain the most are often, and not just coincidentally, the same people who have not submitted their selfish desires and ambitions to God!  What a miserable way, not only to live, but to die! Many people think that when we die to self, we will live a miserable life and never get to do what we want to do. I won’t lie; sometimes I am tempted to believe this very lie!  However, in reality, the opposite is most often true.  When we are willing to sacrifice for others, we become more fulfilled in our God-given purpose and are more likely to be content with our lives, rather if we just lived for ourselves and our desires.

Another part of dying to self is being willing to serve others. Helping others not only encourages us to keep the focus off ourselves, it also makes us more content and fulfilled with our lives, because we sense we are making a positive contribution to this world. For instance, when I work to focus on making the customers satisfied and happy with our products and service, I find I feel much more confident and willing to serve them, rather than if I am focused on just checking something off my list. Dying well, means having died knowing that you served others the best you could, and were not just out for yourself.

In order to truly die well, I believe we must strive daily to fulfill our God-given purpose for this life, deny ourselves, and be willing to live to serve God and others with a whole heart.  As God has said in my heart, repeatedly, “You don’t have much time left.”  Yes, we don’t have as much time left as we may perceive in our minds, but we can use what is left to make sure we die well, and full of purpose.  

Hope -a poem

-to everyone going through pain and hurt right now

When everything falls apart

When things start to unravel

When you are on your last rope

I still see a glimmer of hope

 

Because one day I almost died

In me, there was almost no fight

I almost missed that glorious light

But that bright light filled my soul

 

The light can also bring you much hope

If you let the brightness fill your soul

You will be able to see much love

And again your life will be made whole

On Loss and Love: Lessons Learned 

-in memory of all my loved ones and friends who have passed away

This past week, for me, has been a week of both contemplation and mourning.  The day when I was to attend a memorial service for my friend’s sister, I found out that a dear congregant of my church, who I was just starting to know, had just passed away.  Meanwhile, I heard on the T.V broadcast, more sobering news about the problems of violence in Chicago. Also, I heard on the broadcast that white nationalists and anti-racist protestors where planning marches all across the country. The last time this happened (i.e  last year), there was widespread violence—especially in Charlottesville.  While I have heard that both my friend’s sister and the dear congregant valued people and life, sadly much of society is turning the other way.  I believe that one of the roots of most of society’s ills is the fact that they don’t really value people.

In fact, one lesson that I learned on loss and love is not to take others for granted.  Unfortunately, all of us (including me, of course), have been guilty of taking for granted someone’s presence, at one time or another.  For instance, for many years, I had not taken much of an effort to really help or get to know my aunt. Yes, I appreciated all that she had done for my family and me, but it didn’t register in my head just how much she had done, until she got very sick when I saw her about a month ago.  Fortunately, I still can get to know her now. Also, I was very fortunate that I was able to visit my dear congregant before she passed away and realize what a beautiful and joyous soul she was, even in the midst of her pain and suffering!   Had I not realized how much my aunt had done for me now, and had I not taken the time to see and get to know my dear congregant friend before she had passed away, I would have been filled with regret and deep sadness about missing opportunities to see such beautiful souls.  One practical way not to take others for granted is to thank the people in your life who have had a positive impact on you.  Don’t just assume that they will be with you forever, because even tomorrow is not guaranteed for us—or them either.  Don’t assume they will be able to provide their help or impact you in the way you want them to, because sickness or death may take them.

Another lesson that I have learned on loss and love is to value the time that I have on this earth. Strive not to waste time. I know waiting in line or in traffic may seem like “time-wasters,” but I don’t mean those. The more dangerous time-wasters in our life, I believe, are being jealous of someone, chasing material wealth, and obsessing over our outer appearance.  I am beginning to learn more and more that being jealous of someone (for more on jealousy, or envy, please see this post.)  is so much a waste of time, primarily because it does not work to improve oneself, only to destroy another person.  Also, thinking in your head ways to destroy a person ultimately not only hardens your heart, but also ultimately destroys you, if this envy is left unchecked.  Chasing material wealth is a waste of time because it does not last forever. When you die, you cannot take your wealth or even your car with you.  Being generous and leaving a positive mark on this world will last longer than trying to hold on to something that ultimately will be destroyed or lost.  Obsessing over outer beauty is also a waste of time because ultimately it won’t last. We get older, and eventually our body decomposes after we die.   Yes, we should strive to look and smell decent whenever we can, since this is a gesture of politeness. However, we should not have to spend hours looking good every day just to impress others.  So, how do we save time? I would attest that the best uses of our time are to spend it joyfully with those you love and/or care about, by serving others in need, and by doing what you can to benefit others.

Thirdly, another lesson that I learned in love and loss is to forgive, forgive, and forgive.  Even when a family member hurt my friend and her sister, they still took care of and loved this person when they became sick.  Had they had still held on to their bitterness and resentment, things would have probably turned out much differently.  When we die, knowing we forgave those who had hurt us, I believe we will leave this earth much more joyfully and at peace than if we hold on to bitterness and anger against someone else.  This is one reason that I am glad that I was able to forgive some of the people that I worked with that had hurt me emotionally.   I know I have forgiven one of them, because now I feel closer to them and actually care about them more deeply than I have ever had before.

Finally, but not least, another important lesson in loss and love I learned is to strive to enjoy life.  My dear congregant friend, even though she could barely get out of bed and was in immense pain, still was able to greet my other friend and me with a joyous demeanor when we saw her.  From her, I learned that one is still able to have joy even in the midst of life’s trials. I can have confidence that either or both God and my loved ones will always be with me in the midst of my pain, and in that I can rejoice.  I can look to the positive aspects of my life that are still intact, and focus on those, instead of my pain. I am still struggling to apply this to my life, but I do see some improvements.  My congregant friend, even though she is no longer with us, still inspires me with her infectious smile that was present even in the midst of her illness and suffering.  I also have learned to enjoy every moment of my life.  Even in waiting in line to pay for groceries, for example, one still can enjoy it by striking up conversation with the other people waiting in line for you. This can be an opportunity to see the beauty in the souls with you.   Learn to enjoy life even in the mundane tasks that you may have to do at work or at school.  I see too many people just going through the motions, and then wondering why life is so hard and depressing.  Find joy in the people you are with. Don’t assume that everyone you are going to meet is a jerk. Yes, some of them are, but there are also others who may be very considerate and loving of you.  Try not to focus on the tasks and the people that make us miserable, but on those that help you get through the day.

Both my friend’s sister and my dear congregant friend embraced life and others in a way that allowed them to both enjoy life and value others.  This is the legacy they will leave to me, and this is the same way I strive to live my life. Sometimes, death makes us ponder what our purpose in life is and where we are going.  This pondering is vital so that we can fulfill our life’s purpose and be more focused on what’s most important in our lives. We have only a limited time on this earth. Let’s make it count!

My Legacy–a poem

My Legacy  6/17/2018

 

When it’s my time to go

I want the world to know

The fullness of God’s great love

The love from up above

 

When it’s my time to go

I want people to know

That they are so much more

Than just another face

 

When it’s my time to go

I want to live in peace

With no more bitterness

And for anger to cease

 

Before my time is up

I want to serve others

And share the immense hope

I found in my Savior

How to Give Hope to the Hurting

DISCLAIMER: I am not a doctor, or a mental health professional. If you or someone you love is in a crisis, please feel free to call -1-800-273-8255 (the Lifeline). Someone there can give you the help that is needed. Also, triggers for mentions of suicide.

 

In the past few days, many of you have heard about the deaths of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain. It has been confirmed by various sources that they died by suicide. However, they are not the only ones who have struggled with depression and feelings of hopelessness in their lives. In fact, suicide rates in the U.S have gone up 30% since 1999, and 45,000 people died by suicide in 2016. (1). In fact, many people I know, myself included, have struggled with depression and/or thoughts of suicide. However, I found hope in my life in God and in the fact that I am not alone in my struggles.  I have also found that there are many people around us that need hope, and some –even motivation to live!  The good news is that, we can help them find hope in their lives and maybe even save some lives!

Here is what I found from my own life experiences that have helped others (and me) find hope in our lives:

One of the most effective ways I found that is effective in helping those who are hurting find hope in their lives again is to speak encouragement into their lives.  One way to do this is to offer hope-filled words to those who are hurting or stressed. We can offer just the right words for the person’s situation. For instance, when my manager Chris* (*=not his real name) was stressed, I gave him a note that had a Bible verse about rest for the weary soul. I think it was Matthew 28:20 (KJV), which says, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” He really seemed to appreciate the note.  Also, when I was upset and felt despairing of life, my friend Veronica* (*=not her real name) spoke encouraging words into my life as well.  Though I don’t remember exactly what she said, I do remember that after she talked to me, I felt much better and more determined than ever to better my life.  When we lack this encouragement, we will not have as much motivation to persevere in our lives, and can even become cynical and bitter of the people and the world around us. I remember when I felt discouraged and felt that no one was there to emotionally support me, that I became paranoid of the world around me and felt unmotivated and ready to give up on life.

Another way we can speak encouragement into others’ lives is to give praise to people when they do something good. Don’t do this just to flatter them or to manipulate them. This will only serve to make them bitter and cynical in the future, because your motivations will eventually be found out!  However, when you genuinely praise and appreciate someone for the good they do, you create a spark in their heart and their eyes often light up. When my co-worker *Ted got complimented by a customer, I knew he genuinely appreciated the gesture because of how excited and happy his voice was when he related the story of how the customer said that he should be rewarded for his good customer service to them.  When I told several of my managers several months ago how much the opportunity they gave me to be employed full-time there meant to me, they felt genuinely appreciated and loved in a way most of them never have been before.  When people lack this type of encouragement in their lives, they feel nothing they do is ever good enough, so they eventually stop giving their best efforts.  They feel like their hard work is done for naught.  If someone both lacks this encouragement and is constantly being belittled and criticized, he or she can spiral into a deep, dark depression. This lack of encouragement can even lead him or her to self-injure or, worse yet, commit suicide.

Another way we can offer hope to those who are hurting is to offer them practical helps.  If the person that is hurting emotionally is also sick or bed bound, just offering to spend quality time with them will mean a lot.  Also, if possible or necessary, help them with basic household chores to let them know that they are not alone and to help their home to be kept up. Of course, also speak encouraging words into their lives. Let them know that you value them and that they are loved. Let them know that they are not alone, even if it seems that way to them.

If the person is hurting because he or she is stressed and/or anxious, we can offer hope by removing them, if possible, away from the stressful situation. For instance, if a family member is making a person stressed, suggest they spend some time away from them, whether it is at another location or even just in separate rooms of the house, until they are ready to deal with the source of the stress again.  Also, we can offer to be there for them in the stress. Your presence should help them feel less alone in their fears and stresses.  You can also offer to pray for them, if they are religious. We can also be an outlet for them to be able to vent and talk about their stress and fears. When you want to be an outlet, there are some important things to keep in mind. 1) Don’t judge them. Judging someone will only make their stress and anxiety worse, and won’t help the situation at all. Moreover, they will, most likely, shut down immediately.  2) Also, listen attentively to their concerns. This will show that you care about them.  3) Don’t offer to “fix” things (i.e  give unsolicited advice). Sometimes, all people want is for you to listen and affirm them.  4) Affirm who they are as a person. This does not mean you have to affirm their behaviors, but you do need to let them know that there is hope for them and that you value them.

One final way we can offer hope to the hurting is through our own example, mainly having a joy-filled, eternal perspective on life. By focusing on our legacy and being motivated on something that will last a long time, you can inspire others to live hope-filled lives as well. Don’t focus on things that won’t last, such as money, material things, fame, or outer appearances. However, focus more on things that will last forever—such as God (if you are religious), the legacy you leave to the next generation, your relationships with others, and who you are inside.  By focusing on things that will impact your legacy to the next generations, rather than just things that will be gone when you die, it will give you a bigger perspective on life and will give you more motivation and hope for the future.  We can then teach this principle to others, giving them hope as well, especially when they are looking for it themselves.

When we help others find hope through our encouraging words, through coming alongside them and helping them in more practical ways, and by inspiring others through our hope-filled, larger perspective on life, we can help heal a broken world.  There is always hope when you are alive, and you can make a positive difference in others’ lives by how we live every day.

Source: 1) National Center for Injury Prevention and Control.  (June 7, 2018). Suicide Rates Rising Across the U.S. Retrieved from: https://www.cdc.gov/vitalsigns/suicide/index.html.

What I Learned From the Movie, Miracles From Heaven

DISCLAIMER: Contains movie spoilers!, sources: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Miracles_from_Heaven_(film)

Last Sunday night, my mom offered to watch a movie with me that she thought I’d like. It was called “Miracles From Heaven.” Wanting to spend a little quality time with her, I agreed. It turned out to be one of the best movie decisions I’ve ever made in my life! I learned so much from this movie about how to live life, and here are some of the main lessons I learned from that movie:

  1. Sometimes you have to go through the storms (i.e: pain) in order to see the sunshine (i.e the miracle or blessing). –10 year old Annabel (Anna) Beam started experiencing vomiting, intense stomach pains, and almost died, before being miraculously cured of her illness after falling into a hollow tree hole.  In the movie, Anna is depicted at one point as wanting to die because her pain is so intense. She no longer cared about life and became very depressed. However, after she was saved, life had a new purpose. However, if Anna had never gotten sick, she wouldn’t have seen God’s grace intervening in her desperate situation.
  2. Live life as if everything is a miracle.–Near the end of the movie, Christy Beam (played by Jennifer Garner), Anna’s mother, begins before telling about Anna’s miraculous recovery by saying, “Albert Einstein is quoted as saying, ‘You have two choices as to how to live your life. Live as if nothing is a miracle, OR live as if everything is a miracle.’ ” Because Christy’s daughter’s life was saved, Christy began to see everything as a miracle and as precious, because she almost lost her beloved daughter and almost lost her faith in the process!  I can relate to this too, as I almost lost my life three years ago when the doctors found out that I had an enlarged gallbladder (She said it was twice the normal size! ) and that I had gallstones. If that gallbladder had burst, and I had waited longer to go to the ER, I would have most likely not be here writing in this blog today! More on this story, go here.  God suddenly reminded me of this event after I watched this movie and remembered the quote about living as if everything were a miracle.  Today, I remembered that quote as I was going about my work at my job and felt really joyful because I had remembered and realized just how blessed I am to be here and to be able to meet all the wonderful people at my job. Truly, everyone I have met, especially those that I have known for less than three years or had helped me through my illness is a testament to my miraculous life!
  3. Be grateful for all those people in your life that helped you succeed or get you through life .—In the movie, Christy pays tribute to all those who helped her and her daughter Anna through her (Anna’s) illness. She thanks Angela, the waitress who befriends Christy and Anna and walks them through the ordeal so they would not have to suffer alone. She thanks Dr. Nurko who treats Anna, and the receptionist who barters for a last-minute opening for her (Anna) despite her mother not having an appointment for her.  She thanks a guy friend at Anna’s school who temporarily abandons his other friends to befriend Anna so she does not feel alone in her illness.  She thanks the guy at the ticket counter who lets Anna’s father and her siblings go on the plane free, so they can see her at the hospital.  Christy does this not to gain attention, and not because she is some holy-roller, but because she realizes that she and Anna couldn’t have made it alone.  I can certainly relate too. For instance, if it had not been for the many doctors, nurses, and the surgeon who operated on me in 2014, I would not be here today. Also, I want to give a shout out to my parents, sibling, and my friend K who came to see me a few days after surgery so I wouldn’t feel alone.  Without all these people and more in my life, I wouldn’t be where or who I am today. So, thank you everyone. And I especially want to thank God, who I firmly believe made this all possible!

This is just some of what I learned in the movie, “Miracles From Heaven.” It’s a great movie; I highly recommend it.  (If you would like to purchase this movie, please go to the links in my “recommendations” section. ) It may be slow in parts, and it may not be for everyone, but if you want to live your life with more passion or purpose, this movie is a great supplement to get you thinking about life more deeply.