What I learned in Five Years

Five years ago today, I had just been employed at my previous job for a few months.   Also, I was five years into membership at my previous church.  I had just met my mentor J, maybe a year back.  All in all, I could have never known the adventures in my life that awaited me, even a year or two later.  Five years later, I can honestly say that I have learned so much. Here are some of the things I learned:

First and foremost, I learned how to relate better to other people.  The one thing that I will always appreciate about my former place of employment is that they taught me so much about how to relate successfully to customers that I also apply to the job that I have now.  For instance, I learned how to cater to the customer’s needs, even when it may have been inconvenient or difficult to do so. Thus, I learned just how valuable the customers are to the business.  More recently, I have also learned the power of forgiveness. I can think of several people that I currently work with or for that I had misgivings about in the past, with whom I now get along great!  One important thing that I learned from those experiences that helped me to be able to forgive these people is to put myself in their shoes.  I know it may seem very difficult to do, especially since they hurt you! It was tough for me too, but when I was able to do this, I found that I was able to see, not just the person that hurt and damaged me, but maybe a hurting, vulnerable soul inside. I was able to see them through eyes of compassion and love, instead of through eyes of hate and disgust. Thus, I also learned how to love people better. Though being angry is still a struggle for me, I have learned so much about understanding others better and being a living sacrifice both for God and others.

Secondly, I learned some secrets to be content. Overall, I can say, five years later, I am more content with my life than I had been before.  One secret of contentment that I learned is gratitude.  In 2014, a year after 2013 (which was five years ago), I became very ill and had to be rushed to the E.R one day. (For the full story on this, go to this link.).  To make a long story short, I had an inflamed gallbladder that was twice the size it should have been, and it had to be removed. However, it was only three years after the surgery that I realized that I could have died had the surgery not occurred when it did! So, realizing that, I have learned to value my life more.  Also, many people around me have either gotten sick or died, and experiencing these trials alongside them has helped me to appreciate my good health more and also the value of making a positive difference in others’ lives.  Very recently, I have also learned to worry less. Though I still struggle with worry sometimes, I can happily say it is less than before. I have learned to trust God’s plan for me and also to let certain things that used to worry and aggravate me, go. For instance, I used to get really upset when traffic was really bad and people cut in front of me.  However, ever since my recent vacation where I learned how to tolerate traffic that was BEYOND horrible (even though I did not drive), I learned to be more patient and grateful for the comparatively smoother traffic I have where I live!

Finally, I also learned how to stay motivated and passionate in life.  One of the things I learned was to widen my interests. I learned this primarily by reading others’ blogs, as part of the blogging community I am part of online. Reading blogs covering a variety of topics, has piqued my interests in things that I didn’t care about or focus much on before, such as cooking and travel.  I also met diverse groups of people at work and at church. Meeting these people has also helped me discover new interests and things to learn about that I have never explored before.  I also have learned how to look to the life beyond the grave. Because of what I have learned in church and in life, I have learned to focus on a.) eternal rewards (i.e heaven) and b.) leaving a positive legacy for future generations more. This focus has motivated me to do the best I can in almost every aspect of my life. I want to leave this world knowing that I contributed something of value to it, and that I loved others as the valuable beings they are.

Overall, though these past five years have gone by so fast, I have learned so much. I can honestly say that I am a different person than the one five years ago. In the future, I want to continue to grow as a person and continue to live a positive legacy for those around me.

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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!

True love

True love

True love is giving someone more mercy and grace than they deserve.

True love is focusing on the good of someone even after they betrayed you.

True love is sacrificing yourself, even if you are not feeling well, to serve and to be with those you love.

True love is valuing someone so much that you want the best for them even if their future is not to be with you forever.

True love is helping those in need without expectation of return.

True love is valuing those who may not seem attractive to you.

True love is telling someone difficult truths, not so they feel bad about themselves or fall into despair, but so they can see the light and become a better person.

True love is about encouraging others who need to see the difference they have made in yours and others’ lives when they feel like they have nothing to show for their effort.

True love is about giving hope and joy to those who you think are least deserving.

True love is about sacrificing your time and money to help those who need your love and support now.

True love is about laying down your life, so that others may live.

True love is about sacrificing your desires, so that others may have a chance to blossom and rejoice.

True love is about letting the car, whose driver is in a hurried panic, cut in front of you, during construction.

True love is about forgiving someone who had hurt you deeply, and then investing deeply in them.

True love is about caring about the safety of others by warning them if they are about to fall into danger.

True love is about persevering through a tough situation, consistently, so that others may be spared of the pain you are going through.

True love is about giving your all to those you love, so their lives may be bettered and so they can start a chain reaction of positivity.

Worth It- a poem

Worth it     6/30/18

–for someone I know

On one cold wintry day

I was looking for hope

A place where I could grow

Where goodness I could sow

 

When I looked at your face

And the ones around me

Showed me amazing grace

I saw a gleam of hope

 

But then darkness took over

I hated everything you did

And what you were to me

Your light I couldn’t see

 

After that, the storm ended

All my pain, hurt, and hate

Melted away from me

Your light I could now see

 

For all you are to me

For all the good I see

And all the grace and love

I see and find in you

You are always worth it

What I Learned From My Vacation : July 2018 edition

You may have wondered why my posts suddenly stopped and why there hasn’t been new material recently.  Well, I was visiting relatives, some of them I hadn’t seen in eight years! It was a good vacation, but not without caveats along the way.   As on my vacation last year, I learned many valuable life lessons that I would like to share today:

  1. Be grateful for what you have. You never know when they will be taken from you.—This is the number one lesson I learned on this journey. Before I went on vacation, I had over-idealized how things would be like in general. I was so stressed at work and in life, in general, that I had forgotten to treasure what God had given to me. One of the things I had to deal with during part of my trip was the lack of water to take a shower.  My family and I were in a boat where the water supply was scarce. To say I was relieved when we arrived at a hotel a couple days later with good, running water was an understatement!  Another thing that happened was that everyone in my family got sick for at least part of the trip.  I vomited twice and had a couple bouts of diarrhea.  I also got sick yesterday after coming home from the trip, but am much better today, and will learn to not to take good health for granted anymore.  I also am learning to value the time that I spend with loved ones and not to take their presence or kindness for granted.  Before this vacation, I was grateful for my aunt, but it really didn’t sink into my mind how much she had done for my family and me until she got very sick on this trip.  She sacrificed everything she could for us so that we could stay in her house during some part of our vacation together.  She made sure we had enough food and supplies to feel at home, and the continued to think of us even when she was not feeling well physically.  Finally, I have to say, to my shame, that before this vacation, I used to get very upset and impatient with traffic jams and slow drivers.  When I was on vacation, in the place where many of my relatives live, the traffic was so bad that it doesn’t even compare to some of the traffic jams where I live! I remember on my vacation, one of the traffic jams was so bad that my family and I were sitting in traffic in the same spot for 15 minutes before we even moved!
  2. Let go of the things that hinder you from being the best you can be.—Along with being more grateful, I also learned to let go of certain things that had hindered me from being my best. I had to decide not to be so upset at certain things that didn’t turn out the way I wanted it to or how I expected it to be.  For instance, I had to adjust to the conditions of the boat we were in, even though it may have been less than ideal.  Also, on the last full day of our trip, I had to let go of the desire to shop more because most of my family needed rest and time to pack. If I got upset, then I would have certainly made things worse than it was. I also had to let go of the expectation that I would be able to see everything on our vacation because of the time it took to get to certain places, complicated further by unpredictable traffic jams.  When I was able to let go of my expectations and just go with the flow, so to speak, I found that I felt much freer and more at peace with things.
  3. Others need our love. Love generously and without reproach.– Finally, one of the things I learned on my vacation was how much other people need our love and how we should love generously without reproach. Sometimes, I had gotten weary of doing good, especially to those who I think are rude on purpose and don’t have care or consideration for other people other than themselves.  However, I have learned that they are some of the people that need my love the most.  I found that when I love others generously and without expectation, that people are more receptive to what I have to say and offer.   I learned that when I, or others, showed love and care to those who needed it the most, that it often alleviated whatever suffering and stress that they were going through at the time. For instance, I had had a very tough time learning to snorkel (and I still can’t do it right!), but when the tour guide helped me through this and was patient with me, he helped me alleviate some of the stress I had with learning something  I wasn’t good at.  I was even able to laugh with him!  Also, initially I was very upset at someone on one of the flights I was in because they had inconvenienced my whole family with their self-centeredness.  However, by the end of the flight, I learned to look at them with more compassion, even though I didn’t know what they were going through. Also, when my family and I helped my aunt with several things, she seemed to feel more at peace and less stressed.

These are the main things that I learned while on my journey this year.  Though I was gone for more than a few days, I never stopped learning, and I continue to learn today.  Overall, this vacation will change some parts of my life for the better, and for that I am grateful.

Losing Pride, Gaining Joy

I believe that one of the greatest causes of conflict and emotional pain in this world today is pride. Society sees humility as a weakness—an admission of guilt or defect. However, what if we gained the awareness that we are all weak in some way? What if we realized that our weaknesses, even the ones that we want no one to know about, do not diminish our worth as a person?  What if we realized that it is not all about us? What if we realized how valuable our life is, and, thus used our time to make a positive impact on the world around us?

Here is what I learned about how to lose arrogant pride and thus gain joy:

  1. View life as a gift.—About four years ago, I started having pains in my side. My parents and I thought it was just a hernia from lifting heavy things at my job at the time. However, when I started throwing up blood, my parents drove me to the hospital, and I was admitted almost right away. As it turned out, my gall bladder was about twice the size it should have been and inflamed.  If I had waited just a few hours later to go to the hospital, my gall bladder would have burst, and I would probably not be here to share this story with you today.  Strangely enough, I did not realize how close I was to death, until about three years later, when a co-worker from my current job exclaimed, “You could have died!” when I told her my story. Hopefully, it won’t take almost dying to view your life as a gift, but that is what I realized that day. Another time when I could have come close to dying was when I was driving to church, a few months ago, and a driver could have crashed into me and caused a serious accident had I not stopped for them in the nick of time!  From those incidents, I realized how fleeting life can be, and how it can be taken from me at any moment.  Thus, I also realized that we should view each blessing (good thing) that we are given as a gift and treat them accordingly.  Another thing I learned about life is to savor each moment we are given, because we will never be given the exact same opportunities again. Often, we (me included) are so busy that we just brush past our activities and those we encounter, and don’t really enjoy or value them.  Nearly dying at least twice in my life, has helped me begin to savor each moment more. It is a work in progress, but I found that when I am able to slow down and savor the moment, I am much more joyful and less stuck on myself and what I want to accomplish at that time.
  2. Stop comparing and envying.—Envy and the comparison game are great contributors to arrogant pride. I mentioned in a previous post that I was envious of several people in my life because I felt inadequate and lacking compared to them. However, several years ago, I realized that by envying them, I was accomplishing absolutely nothing for my own life.  Envying them did not make me more successful or strengthen my relationships to these people. In fact, it probably created an invisible barrier between us!   Another thing I learned (and am continuing to learn) is to stop comparing myself to people that I think are “better” in some way than me. This only leads to depression and/or prideful arrogance against them, as one may compensate by thinking about something in themselves that is way better than the envied person just to cover up their envy.
  3. Treasure others as much as yourself.—One way to combat arrogant pride is to think more (or as much) about others as yourself. For example, if you see someone is tired and stressed out at your job because they are overwhelmed by their work, offer to help them out. Do not only think about how much you are stressed out or how much you want to go home, right now. Another way to treasure others as much as you is to learn other people’s life stories.  Get to know people, not only their favorite foods or their favorite sport, but also what their goals in life are, what makes them joyful and sad, what happened in their past to make them the people they are today. Above all, live to serve others.  This does not mean to be a doormat and cater to someone taking advantage of you. However, living to serve others means to sometimes sacrifice what you want, for another person’s joy.  It also means living to make a positive difference in others’ lives and bringing hope to others.
  4. We should also stop thinking that anyone “owes” us anything.—The entitlement mentality also is a great contributor to arrogant pride because it focuses exclusively on self and our “rights.” The longer I live, the more I realize that no one really “owes” me anything. When I view everything as a gift, this thinking can be stopped right in its tracks. Another way to stop entitlement mentality is to remember the mercy and grace shown to you  in your life. For example, if you did something nice for someone else, and that person does not even say “Thank you,” do not hold a grudge against them because you think you have “the right” to be appreciated.  Instead, remember all the times someone else did something nice to you and you forgot to say thank you, but they did not hold it against you.  Also, try to remember the times where you did not get the bad you deserved, or got the good you did not merit. For instance, even though I am sometimes selfish and bone-headed, people still generally treat me with kindness and patience.  Remembering this helps me to lose the mentality that I am “owed” anything.

 

When we live each day as a gift given to us, rather than something we are owed, we gain much joy and hope in our lives. Also, when we stop comparing and envying what others have, we are much more apt to appreciate and focus on the good we already are blessed to possess.  Finally, when we live to serve others, rather than just ourselves, we get away from the “poor-me” and  entitlement mentalities and gain much joy in knowing we have made a positive difference in countless lives.

Greatest Life Lessons I Learned

I heard from someone once that it is only when we learn all our life’s lessons that we are allowed to leave this earth.  I don’t know about anyone else, but I love to learn about many different things. For instance, today I am learning how to cook a new slow cooker recipe.  I’m hoping it tastes OK. However, I consider the following life lessons that I have learned (and sometimes had to review) some of the greatest ones that I have ever been taught by various people and through a variety of circumstances in my life.  I believe that these lessons can be applicable to almost anyone, in a variety of ways, and that they are vital to be truly successful in life:

#1- Treat everyone with value. It goes a long way.—As a society, we are routinely guilty of not following this.  Sometimes, at work, you may not even get a “Thank you” regularly for a job well done.  Children are sometimes ignored or worse yet, mistreated by loved ones.  People who are looked at as “unproductive” or “inferior” in some way are treated sometimes worse than animals! What if society, starting with us, treated everyone as the valuable, priceless people they are?  I found that when I treat people with value, that they not only open up to me, but they find some joy and love for themselves as well. If you consistently treat people as valuable, you will not only ascribe dignity to them, but also gain respect for yourself.

#2-  Everyone has a story. Learn them. –I believe that part of treating others with value is taking the time to learn their life stories.  Get to know people. I mean, really get to know people. As your relationships with others grow, find out about their past, their goals and dreams, what they see as their purpose in life, how they experience love, how they overcame their pain and obstacles.  In investing in others in this way, you will not only gain a greater appreciation and understanding of others, you also may be able to make a significant positive impact in their lives.

#3 – Don’t give up!—One of the saddest parts of life that I have witnessed is people having a fallout, and never trying to work things out with the other person or forgiving them their faults.  Another sad part of life that happens far too often is people giving up on life, either by ending it all, or by becoming apathetic and/or self-indulgent about life just to ensure they never get hurt again.  I have personally been tempted by both these sad things. However, I am not a quitter, and that has made all the difference in my life.  Don’t give up. For instance, I once held a grudge against someone for almost two years!  However, I believe God orchestrated the events in my life in such a way that I was forced to interact with this person regularly.  Eventually, through a series of events in my life, I finally learned to let go and forgive, and also never to give up on this person. As a result of our persistence, this person and I have never gotten along better!  Also, many times, when I wanted to end my own life, God and others urged me to reconsider, and I did. Because I persisted in living, I am able to share with you this and other life lessons today.

#4- Work hard and have passion in what you are doing. They have its own rewards.—For a long time, I struggled in finding a full-time job.  Also, I would start many blogs, and end them within a few months.  However, shortly after getting my current job (For more on that, see this.),  I also determined to blog more regularly. I was also determined to be the best worker I could be, and find joy in the work I was doing. As a result of being more motivated at both my day job and blogging, I have felt more joy than I have than at any other point in my life!  People may not always appreciate me or say “thank you” every day, but because I am able to make a difference in others’ lives and do some of the things I love and enjoy, I feel rewarded already.

#5- Be grateful and see the beauty in everything. When one has a complaining attitude, all they see is darkness.—When I am having a bad day and have a complaining attitude, I find my day gets progressively worse.  This happens sometimes when I am stressed at work and I am not focused on the positive. However, a couple days ago, work was very busy. There were many customers to serve. Some people can be overwhelmed just by the sheer amount of people—both customers and workers—at my workplace at the time.  However, I determined to focus on the positive, despite the stress that I knew I would encounter.  Because I was able to focus on the positive, I found that I was considerably less stressed than usual, despite the chaos around me.  I was able to serve customers with a good attitude, and I was able to get things done in a timely manner. In general, when I see what I have been so richly blessed with, I am able to see the beauty in what has been given to me. I am able to enjoy my life, and not be so depressed. I believe that there is a direct correlation between gratitude and joy, and there is also a connection between having a complaining attitude and becoming depressed.

#6 –Forgive continually. Holding grudges is so not worth it.—This lesson is also one of my life epiphanies. I have found that when I hold a grudge against someone for more than one week, not only do I waste precious time; I also waste my energy as well.  I used to be one of those people that thought that I would finally get revenge against the people that hurt me if they saw how much I hated them and held back forgiveness against them.  However, I found that just the opposite happened. Not only did the offenders oftentimes, either did not care or did not know how much they had hurt me, I was also hurting myself and others who had nothing to do with the offense committed!

#7- Sometimes you just have to let people go.—Sadly, there have been instances that I observed or read about where abusers in romantic relationships haven’t learned this lesson, and end up destroying their victims and also themselves in the process.  Even many people who are not abusive in any way sometimes have trouble with this lesson.  Because I am not a quitter, I admit sometimes that I had trouble with this lesson as well.  When you have done all you can to redeem a relationship, be it romantic or otherwise, and the other person does not want any part in the restoration process, it is time to let that person go.  Yes, you can absolutely mourn the loss, but give that person space.  If you really love that person (or even have a semblance of respect for them), you need to respect their wishes. Let them go. Don’t be afraid to be alone for a while. Use this mourning period, to do something kind for another hurting person or to do something you enjoy for yourself.

#8-Don’t be so afraid. It will all work out somehow in the end.—So many times in my life, I had been plagued by worry: What if “x” happened? How am I going to make it? What would happen if I did “A” instead of “B”? Will my life be ruined?  Not only did I find out that worry is a waste of time, but I also found that often, everything eventually worked itself out.  For instance, at work I sometimes worry about not getting the straightening of my assigned area or areas done in time. Then, I find that I do get the straightening done in time or a manager or another associate helps me when they see that I am struggling. Also, for a long time, I was so afraid to drive because I thought I was going to get into an accident.  However, when I actually learned to do it, I found that I was able to drive pretty safely and that during the times when I could have gotten into an accident, God has saved me from that fate.

 

These are some of the greatest life lessons that I learned.  Learning each of these lessons (and reviewing them when necessary) has helped me not only to be more successful in my relationships, but also made me more joyful in life. What are some lessons that you have learned in life that have helped you be more successful?  Please feel free to comment, and may all of us learn all our life lessons well.