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.  

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Butterfly

You thought no one would want you

You thought you were hideous

That none would truly love you

That you were doomed forever

 

But then you saw a bright light

Someone who saw your beauty

And not just an ugly sight

Giving you true hope inside

 

Despite all you have gone through

You are a true butterfly

And I will always love you

And the beauty inside you

What I’m Learning From Recent Changes in My Life

As you may recall in my previous posts, in 2016, I went through some of the toughest and most drastic changes in my life. 2016 was when I got my current job. It was also the year my brother moved away, and I started to attend my current church, after having been at my previous one for ten years!  Here I am, three years later, and am about to undergo, and have undergone even more changes in my life!  First of all, at church, we are in a period of transition, where we will soon be getting a new pastor, as my current senior pastor will be stepping down after 40 plus years of service to our church.  Second of all, there have been so many changes that have been occurring at my job that I couldn’t keep track of them all unless I really thought about it! Finally, there are some other personal changes that I have been going through or will be going through that will have a great impact on my life. Even in these various changes going on in my life, God is still teaching me so much, that can be not only applied to me in the situations I find myself in, but also to everyone else, in their life situations.

The first thing I am learning is to not waste time because time is fleeting. In the past, when I thought I had a lot of time, I had more of a temptation to waste time, because I thought that I still had a lot left.  I thought that if I saved certain tasks for later (i.e procrastinate on some things), that I would have something to occupy me later so that I wouldn’t get bored.  For instance, if I wanted to enjoy watching a certain movie, I would save it for a time “when I really got bored” so I would have something to do later.  While it is good to be able to delay gratification sometimes, I am learning more and more that I shouldn’t wait to enjoy life while there is still time, because there may not be a later.  Also, something that I have been learning and that I really, really regret, is that I never really said everything that I needed to that was on my heart to those people I loved, and now some of them are leaving. For instance, my current pastor is leaving after 40 plus years of service in our church, and I have only been attending for less than three years. I regret that I did not really get to know how amazing my pastor is as a person and as a pastor, because I never really spent much time with him or his wife. From now on, I will strive to make time for the people that matter the most to me. Instead of spending hours stressing about work or surfing mindlessly online, I will strive to spend more time with those I love and like.  I also strive to not be afraid to say the things that I need to say to those I love and/or admire the most. I had been afraid to say some of the “nice” things too, because I didn’t want to sound “fake” or too “mushy.” However, now I realize that since it is from my heart, I am not being fake or mushy.  So, is there something on you hear that you would like to tell your loved ones or friends? Don’t wait until it is too late to tell them how much they mean to you. You may never get another opportunity to say what you need to say!

The second thing I am learning is to stop worrying about the future and trust God. When I first underwent some of these changes, I admit I had a worrisome “What-if” mentality in my head. Since I didn’t know exactly how these changes would impact my life, I assumed the worst, and that made me miserable and cranky.  However, through the message that my next pastor was preaching yesterday, I learned that I need to let go of the worry and the possible “What-if” scenarios that may or may not play out, and just trust the process.  For instance, one of the changes at my work is to my schedule. I was content with working mornings, but now they want most people to work second shift, including me.  I was initially worried that this change would stress me out to breakdown point, and I even tried to fight it a little bit. However, God showed me, in the sovereignty He had over the events of my life, that this change was from Him.  I learned from God through that message yesterday that when I entrusted the situation to Him, that He would give me the strength and the resources I needed to get through the change in my life, and indeed He has! When we worry about the future, we don’t allow God to work to change us so we can successfully adjust later on.  We get stuck in the past and “What-if” scenarios, and we waste time worrying, instead of asking God to help us get through today.

Finally, I am learning that God’s presence and guidance will help me through the transitions in my life.  This year, I am striving to let God have control of my life and not to “help” Him through the situations in my life.  In fact, the more I try to control certain things in my life, the more chaotic and destructive my life often becomes!  However, when I relax and not let my anxiety and my desire for control take over me, as I let go and allow God to work through me, I find that I am much more calm and able to do His will. Often when I try to fight the changes in my life, the more apparent the changes become! This also happens when I am trying to escape a situation or a person. For instance, if God wanted a person to be in my life, but I didn’t want the person in my life for whatever reason, God would make it so that I would see the person more often! However, when I just tried to deal with that person in a godly manner, the situation either became better or that person that was bothering me in my life would finally leave.

Even in the changes of my life, I am comforted by the fact that God never changes, and that He will continue to teach me valuable life lessons as I am being shaped into His image.  I am learning to use my time more wisely and more intentionally for the people that I have been called by God to minister.  I am learning to be less anxious about change, and to trust that God will bring me through all these transitions.  God is still working in our lives, even through change. The question is, will we continue to let Him?

Importance of Time

I know most people have heard the phrase, “So much to do, so little time.” I know this has been the case for me, more so just in these past couple of days, as those around me have become more “time-conscious.”  One of my friends reminded me that Jesus is coming soon (though we don’t know the day or the hour).  My parents let me know last night that our days in this place may be numbered.  So many U.S government employees are wondering how much their savings will last until the shutdown is finally over (which I hope, for their sake, is very soon!).  As my pastor has said repeatedly, “Time is life.”

Time is life.

That alone should point to the importance of how we spend our time, and help us not to waste so much time, me included.

Other reasons why time is so important are implied in these facts:

  1. Time is limited.
  2. You can never get the time you lost back.
  3. Time is valuable.

Yes, we live longer than we have, let’s say 100 years ago.  Even so, we will all eventually die and face our eternal destiny.  Time is limited.

Sadly enough, we all have been guilty of wasting time, at one point of our lives or another. I know I am not immune to this. I have wasted too much time being bitter about people that either didn’t mean to do me harm, or didn’t care that they harmed me.  I should have just forgiven them and moved on in my life, instead of brooding about what they did and how much they had hurt me.  I have also wasted too much of my life wallowing in self-pity, anger and despair. 

Maybe you have had similar stories of time wasted.

 Maybe instead of appreciating your spouse (if you are or were married), you catered to your own selfishness and self-indulgence, until it was too or almost too late to save your marriage. Maybe instead of caring for that relative or friend, you brushed them aside in their time of need because you were too busy to attend to them.  Maybe you have wasted time doing other things that were just not that important, and neglected the things that should have been most important.

I think the reason we sometimes waste time is that we are not conscious of time. We perceive we have more time than there actually is. Some people don’t anticipate change—or that time will move on without them.  Moreover, we think we can make up for lost time, only to discover it was too late!

So, how do we redeem the time (i.e.. not waste time)?

First, we have to be time-conscious. Most people are more time-conscious when they know their time is limited, such as when a loved one dies or when they attend a funeral. However, we don’t have to wait for death to knock at our door in order to be time-conscious.

Lose the attitude that you have all this time in the world! Strive not to procrastinate! Do what you can today, and strive to live each day as it was your last. Some people go to work, or even approach life, as if it were drudgery that will last forever, doing nothing to change their attitudes or their circumstances.  I am not talking about people suffering from depression or who have already done what they could and are still miserable. I’m just talking about those that are determined to stay miserable no matter what.   Know that time is fleeting. If you are having a tough time now, there is hope because this will eventually pass. If you are content with your life now, be thankful for all that you have been blessed with.

Secondly, we have to determine what is important to us. In order to not waste time, we need to prioritize what is most important to us.  We need to ask ourselves what we value the most, whether it be God, our family, our friends, or other priorities. Then, we need to spend the most time on those things we value most.

For instance, I value God, family, and friends, in that order.  If I want to redeem my time that I have in life, I will focus on the interests that matter in my relationship to God, my family, and friends. I would not waste time wallowing in self-pity or being idle in regards to these priorities.

Also, we need to be sure that what we value will last through eternity, and not put so much emphasis on those things that are fleeting. For example, if a manager or co-worker at your job has a bad day and gets snippy at you, don’t become bitter and angry for more than a day with them and let that destroy your relationship with them, if you value relationships as eternal.  Instead chalk it up to them having a bad day, and forgive them for their frustration at you. 

Since our time is limited, valuable, and can never be regained, we should be sure not to waste time.  In order to do that, we need to prioritize what is most important to us and be sure we are conscious of the scarcity of our time here on earth, valuing each day as if it were our last. 

Let’s redeem our time today, and do positively in the days we have left on earth!

Glorious Joy

 written:  12/23/2018

I was in so much despair

Thinking I was beyond repair

Joy was not a part of my life

I was suffering from much strife

 

Everything seemed to go wrong

Life seemed to just drag me along

But then God rescued me

And His love I began to see

 

Like a growing tree, my joy grew

I learned contentment that was true

As I was led into the light

My life became a glorious sight

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.

Precious

-written 11/4/2018

I have seen you struggle all your life

Among others you have had much strife

People treating you like just a toy

For them to just use and then destroy

 

But they don’t know the light in your soul

The light that makes you awesome and whole

They don’t know the joy you brought to me

Or how precious you will always be

 

Don’t let their dark extinguish your light

Remember your value in my sight

Because you’re unique and set apart

And that I love you with my whole heart