community, death, eternal matters, illness, life, life lessons, pain, purpose, stories, suffering, thankfulness, work

What I Learned During My Past Illness-Revised Edition

 

2020 has brought much chaos and uncertainty in this country. Many people have gotten sick, and some have even died from COVID-19.  Prejudice and hate have become more widespread.   It’s easy to lose hope and fall into despair because of these events.  However, for me, today symbolizes great hope for my life, and I hope will inspire others to find joy and gratitude in their lives as well.   Exactly six years ago, had it not been for God ‘s intervention in the events of my life, I may have not been here to experience the blessings I cherish today.   Everyone that I have met after June 14, 2014, is a testament to this fact.

In the beginning of June 2014, when I was working at my previous job, I suddenly had intense sharp pains in my back and side. My family and I thought they were just muscle pains from lifting heavy things. My job involved some heavy lifting, and if any of you have met me in person, you know that I am quite small physically. However, I knew I had more serious health issues, when one Friday, I got home from work and started to have diarrhea, chills, and fever, accompanied with the side and back pain. I knew I was in trouble the next day when I started to vomit blood. At this point, I had already tried many over-the-counter medications and other relief agents, but none of them worked. I knew had to call off work that day and go to the emergency room (ER) as soon as I could!

 

Going to the ER

When I went to the ER, after many hours and many tests, and even an ultrasound, the doctors/nurses/surgeons/technicians discover two main things: 1) My gall bladder was inflamed and twice the size it should have been! 2.) I had several gall stones! Surgery to remove my gall bladder was scheduled the next day. I couldn’t sleep at all the previous night because of the stomach pains and diarrhea that occurred about every two hours. However, by the time I had the surgery, I was exhausted. The surgery couldn’t come soon enough!

 

Just before surgery, they gave me medications to induce sleep, and I was out in about two minutes. I woke up a couple of hours later, my body shaking a little. However, my body quickly calmed down with medication.  A couple hours after surgery, I ate some soft foods, and when it was determined that my food was starting to digest properly again, I was able to go home that very night.

Recovery

I had trouble walking at a normal pace for the first few days after surgery, and I had trouble keeping food down. However, after about a week or so, I was basically fine. At work, under doctors’ orders, I was not allowed to lift more than 5-10 pounds (about a gallon of milk) for a month after surgery.  However, I did get a point (point=punishment, closer to getting fired) for calling off to go the ER the day I went.

During this ordeal, I learned several things about life and how to deal with things:

If you experience unusual or sudden pain, take it seriously. Go get it checked out immediately! –I was relating this story to a friend of mine who met me only years after my surgery, and she said to me, ” You could have died, especially if your gall bladder had burst!” Luckily for me, it hadn’t, and I was able to get it treated just in time. So, if you experience any unusual or sudden symptoms of pain or other signs of illness, it’s best to get it fixed ASAP. Your life may depend on it!

Your pain won’t last forever– Whether you are faced with a minor illness or a life-threatening one, know the pain you are feeling now probably won’t last forever. It often feels that way, and your feelings should be acknowledged, both by yourself and others. However, try not to despair like I had after surgery. During my recovery, I was mostly confined to my house for a week, and couldn’t enjoy many things I wanted to do. So, I became very depressed and despondent. Even my daydreams were full of depressing content!  However, this did not last long. A week later, I was able to return to work and the pain eventually subsided.  Even if your pain or recovery lasts longer, don’t lose hope of things getting better. Keep on persevering even if you feel like giving up. This shows your strength and endurance not only to people around you, but also yourself. It does get better.

Your health is WAY more important than your job– I was working in pain for the two weeks before I called off to go the ER, and I had to call off that day, because if I hadn’t, I could very well have not made it out alive, and never been able to enjoy any of the blessings that I have today! It is true that I had to suffer the consequences of having called off that one day (They fortunately gave me authorized sick leave for the other week I was off). However, it was much less than if I had to physically die, never to enjoy or see life’s fruits again!

You’re stronger than you think– I always thought I was not only weak emotionally, but physically as well. However, when I was sick, I realized the opposite. I was surprised and humbled that I was able to work 2 weeks with an enlarged gallbladder and gall stones in my body! Also, I believe God gave me the strength to survive this ordeal and make it out alive, and this is a testament to His grace and love for me.  When you go through trials, I believe many of you will find out similarly as well. You are stronger than you may think you are!

The most important thing that I have learned about having been seriously ill was to appreciate what God has blessed you with in life.  Yes, I periodically forget this lesson, but when I contemplate what I went through six years ago, I realize how blessed I am to be with the people I am with now.  I realize that what God has provided me can be taken away from me at any moment, and that I should cherish them before I come to the day where I can no longer enjoy them anymore.

If you have the unfortunate experience of being sick or having a long-term illness, take it seriously. However, realize that this pain probably won’t last forever. Either you will go into eternity or you will get better.  Focus on the relationships you deem the most important. For me, it’s God, family, and friends, in that order, and remember if you are able to persevere, you will come out of this stronger.

 

caring, community, eternal matters, family, friends, God, illness, life, life lessons, love, positivity, purpose, suffering, thankfulness, truth

Things I Learned In Order to Cope with the Coronavirus

-written on March 22, 2020

Saying that these are uncertain and tumultuous times would be an understatement to so many in this world right now.  I just moved almost a week ago and face some uncertainty because of that event. However, many of you are facing even greater uncertainty and even fears because your jobs may have been eliminated or changed, your children are no longer able to attend school, except online, and most of you can no longer attend church services, mosques, temples, or any other place of worship  because of this pandemic.  Even with all this trouble and uncertainty in the world today, there are still ways we can successfully cope with these new realities and stay healthy, both physically and emotionally. Here are some things I learned about how we can cope with this pandemic that is affecting our livelihoods:

  1. Selfishness can cost lives, so we should strive to be considerate of others.—When people hoard the essential supplies to combat or prevent the Coronavirus, or when they are rude and noncompliant with those that provide services and supplies that they need, they are being selfish. This selfishness can cost lives because it can force stores and other businesses to close and those without means of transportation and means to online services can potentially starve or be in otherwise grave danger because they will have to go without the supplies they need to survive day everyday.  If people don’t practice social distancing, not caring about whether they will potentially infect someone, they could potentially make someone who has a compromised immune system or is fragile physically, to get seriously ill and even die!  This can happen because the person who is acting nonchalantly can be a carrier of the virus, even if he or she doesn’t yet present any symptoms. However, when we practice social distancing, so that the virus does not spread, wash our hands frequently in order not to spread potentially harmful germs, and when we are patient and considerate to those who serve us and to those in need, I know God will give each one of us the grace we need to be able to endure this trial for as long as He allows.
  2. God will always provide for us, so we do not have to be afraid of not having enough.—Many people are in fear of at least some aspect of their livelihood being affected by this virus—whether it has to do with their job or financial security, having adequate food and water, and even that they may contract the virus themselves. I confess that I had some fears in all these categories at some point during these past few days, but then God brought this verse to mind:

“Casting all your cares upon him, for he careth for you.”-1 Peter 5:7 (KJV)

That is when I was reminded by God that He cared for me.  And He still cares for every single person reading this today, even when we are going through trials. Not only that, but we don’t have to fear because God always provides for us what we need in some way because of his loving care for us. In fact, Philippians 4:19 (KJV) says:

                “But my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.”

My family and I have personally experienced the truth of this verse, even just over this past week!  For example, my mom needed chicken to cook a dish, and she looked for it in several stores, only to discover they were already out.  However, God provided us with the chicken through my brother, who was able to find it at a store closer to his house, and bought it for my mom.  Another incident where God graciously provided happened a few days ago, when I found out I would still have a job, after having worried about what I would do if I didn’t have one, since I tend to delve into depression and get antsy when I have to stay home and not have work to do.   Moreover, I would have a very difficult time staying at home for even several days on end, and still be relatively sane and stable mentally.   Thankfully, I went in for the job offer at my new workplace, and they allowed me to start the next day!  Not only that, God provided for me beyond what I had asked or even expected when I discovered I got a good raise compared to the last place I worked! I am so blessed!  God also did the same for Job, after Job’s time of intense suffering, by fully restoring or replacing all that Job had before. I am convinced that if we all continue to fully trust and lean on God, He will do similarly for you, in His timing, according to what is right for you. Even when you don’t think God is coming through for you right now, do not give up on Him! God will always come through just when you need Him. His timing is always perfect. 

3.) I learned we should help others in need during this tumultuous time, according to what we are able to do.—If you are healthy, do not have the virus, and have the means to do so, help others who are battling the emotional and/or financial effects of the virus. For instance, if a friend—online or real life, wants to talk or vent to you, listen to them with thought and consideration. Do not seem too busy or judgmental in your demeanor.  Offer words of encouragement to them as they face these trials. Share with them how you are getting through it and tell them about the hope that comes from Christ. If they need financial help, and you are able to do so, give them the resources that they need as a gift, not expecting repayment, as  burdening them with a loan can create additional financial and emotional burdens that they don’t need right now.  Help your loved ones in any way you can, and value their presence in your life even more now, as they may have no one else they interact with face-to-face.

If we do our best to put others before ourselves, trust that God will always provide what we need, and help others struggling with the effects of this pandemic, we will defeat Coronavirus and God will make us stronger and better than before!

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Why I’m Thankful For My Job

EDIT: Many people in my shoes would be unhappy about having to work tomorrow (Thanksgiving Day) in the U.S, but I’m thankful that I have a job and that they will serve a meal where I work. I am so blessed! According to a recent survey, by the Conference Board, only 46% of those surveyed in the U.S were “satisfied” with their jobs. I hear people complaining about their work every day at my job, and in other companies as well. However, for me, though there have been some days where the stress seemed overwhelming, I can say with confidence that I am grateful for my job.

 

 

 

One of the main reasons why I’m thankful for my job is because of how God allowed me to get this job. Before I got employed at my current job, I had an interview at a bookstore about twenty five minutes from my home. I really wanted this job, because I thought it would be my “dream job” and that I would thoroughly enjoy it. However, the interview didn’t go as well as I planned, and I quickly realized that I would not get the job and was not adequately qualified for the job. I was despondent and disappointed, but luckily I did not quit trying.

One wintry day in February, I just happened to stop by my current place of employment to get a few items, and God’s Spirit happened to impress on me that I should check the status of my resume since I hadn’t heard anything back for a couple of weeks. Long story short, I got an interviewed scheduled for a few hours later. Even though, I was super nervous during the interview and wasn’t sure I would be accepted for employment, I got a job offer not even an hour after the interview! The next day, I accepted, and the rest is history. 

Another reason why I’m thankful for my job is because of all the things I learned that I can apply to other places. The first day I worked there, I knew next to nothing about working at my current company and was unable to help customers as well as I can now.  I did not even know how to operate a cash register, which is essential in retail.  However, my now-former manager Elizabeth* allowed me to train on the register for at least 15 minutes every week, even though many people discouraged me from doing it because they thought it would be too stressful or anxiety-producing for me. Because Elizabeth continued believing in me and refused to listen to the negative voices about me that surrounded her, I was officially a trained back-up cashier about a year ago today.  Someone told me that the CSMs (the Customer service managers that are responsible over managing the cashiers) would probably never call me up to ring. However, just two days ago, I was called up to ring, and the day before that I was cashiering for one and a half hours, which is a long time for a back-up who also had to straighten up two departments and do returns afterwards!

I also learned how to relate to different types of people. Because of the diverse crowd that shop at our store, and the associates that are employed there, through different experiences that I have been through, I am constantly learning how to relate to different types of people. Even if I fail at an encounter, I do better next time, and thus God is using my relational experiences with all these people, both good and bad, to help strengthen my character and to help me see something about Himself. For instance, I had a difficult time with a fellow associate, but through a series of circumstances, I learned how to forgive them and realized that I was sent by God to be a light to them and to be an encouragement to them, and not have them blaspheme God’s name because of my un-Christ like actions.

Even though I am not considered wealthy, by societal standards here in the U.S, I am grateful for my job because it provides income and benefits.  I am also grateful for the meals that my store provides the employees each year on Thanksgiving because it shows that they appreciate us working that day.  I also am grateful that I am able to be full-time at my job, which means more hours and benefits.

Even though there may be many reasons why I could be unhappy at my job, I am happy because God has given me everything I need at my job and in life.  When I make God and doing His work my primary focus, I find that I am happier and that I am able to have purpose in my work that goes beyond just getting a paycheck. That is where I can find true joy and gratitude in my work.

Source: The Conference Board.  January 6, 2019. U.S. Job Satisfaction at Lowest Level in two Decades. Bank News.    Retrieved from: https://www.banknews.com/blog/u-s-job-satisfaction-at-lowest-level-in-two-decades/

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

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How To Be Truly Happy

All my life, I had wanted to be happy and be loved. According to Pastor Mark Jobe, it’s a desire of 95% of people you may meet randomly on the street. I even remember reading an article ( I don’t remember which one.) that quoted A.J McLean of the Backstreet Boys saying, “ What do people want? They wanna be happy!”

      However, the longer I have lived, the more I have realized that the pursuit of happiness isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. I found that for many people that their pursuit of happiness often turns into self- indulgent hedonism that can quickly spiral out of control if one isn’t careful. But being happy isn’t a bad thing. Moreover, if these things are true in your life, you may be well on the way to true and lasting happiness.

Image by JacLou DL from Pixabay

In order to be truly happy, we must live with an other- centered focus. If we live with a self-centered focus, we will most likely sprout seeds of discontent in our lives because there will always be some people and situations that won’t comply with our wishes! We will also miss opportunities to truly make a positive difference in others’ lives because we would be too busy thinking about ourselves. A self-centered focus always demands more for itself, and thus is never satisfied with what one already has. However, if we live to see that others are happy as well, we will be too busy serving them to even think selfishly. Moreover, we may even see the fruits of our service to others, and there is great satisfaction and joy in that. For example, my former pastor served faithfully at my current church for over 40 years, and, as a result of the relational investments and services he made to others, many people he mentored are either now in leadership positions in my church or on the mission field. These people are likewise also actively serving in their communities. Thus, we are able to make a great impact on the world and the heavenly Kingdom as well.

Another thing we must practice in order to be truly happy is being grateful for all God has given us. I have observed and realized that people who constantly complain are one of the most miserable people on the planet because they only focus on what is wrong in their lives, completely ignoring the positives. Gratitude is why the Apostle Paul, in Philippians 4:11, is able to say, “[I] have learned in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.” (KJV) One way to be more grateful is not to compare yourself with people having “ more” of what you desire than yourself, but to compare yourself with those having less than you. This thinking has not only helped me be more grateful for what I have, but also be more compassionate to others in need.

In order to be truly happy in life, along with being grateful and other-centered, we must strive to try your best in life. One area we could do this in is our jobs. Most people I encounter approach their work and/ or careers as simply a means of earning a paycheck. But what if we approached our work as a way to serve others and make a great impact on changing our world for the better? What if we served God in our jobs wholeheartedly, instead of only doing the minimum required to “get by”?

Why should we give our best, not only at our jobs, but in all aspects of life? Not only because we will feel better about ourselves and reap the rewards of doing right, but because we will greatly please God and glorify Him. We will also reap much greater rewards if we know we have done our best we could in serving God with our whole lives than if we just did the minimum or accomplished something with minimal effort because we will be able to have a much greater impact and influence when we are passionate about living life positively the best we can.

True happiness, otherwise known as “joy,” had eluded me for many years. I have struggled with depression on and off for more than half my life. However, thanks to God, and to all my past and present teachers of God’s pure and unadulterated Word, I have learned these secrets of joy– having an other-centered focus, being grateful for all I have, and giving God the best in my life, and serving Him with my whole heart. May you, likewise, live in true happiness today by applying these secrets of joy to your life!

Image by galadrim from Pixabay
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What I Learned From My Pastors

written October 31, 2019

October is Pastor Appreciation Month, and I am blessed that God has provided me with two wonderful pastors, and one Pastor Emeritus who have served and labored over my local church for many years.  I have been in several different churches, but my current church has been the best so far.  I have learned more in the past three years, than I have in the previous sixteen years in the Lord. I owe all this to God and His sovereignty in placing the people in my life today, especially the pastoral leadership of my church.

One of the major things my pastors taught is how to more effectively relate to others.  About three years ago, I had a tumultuous work relationship with one of my managers at the time.  One day, things became so bad between the manager and me, that I actually went into one of the services upset and very bitter towards this person, even though I was not scheduled to work that day and hadn’t even made contact with this person in a few days.  So, I decided as a last-ditch effort to maybe quell my intense emotions and be able to concentrate on the sermon that night, that I would talk to Pastor John* about what was going on.  (You can read the whole story here.) Pastor John gave me a few poignant Bible Verses. I told Pastor John, “I tried to be nice to him [meaning my manager], but I don’t think anything is happening. “  Then, Pastor John told me something I will never forget: He said, “Patricia, you have to trust God’s timing.  Just because your manager hasn’t responded now, doesn’t mean God will not work in his heart later.”  This not only convicted me to be more patient with my manager, but also helped me to see that I hadn’t really been trying that hard at all at being kind to him.  That night, I wrote an apology note to my manager, asking him to forgive me of my bitterness towards him. The next day, I was able to see my manager as a person in need of grace and love, rather than the monster that I crafted into my mind for one and a half years. Thus, Pastor John was instrumental in helping me reconcile with my manager, whom I’m pleased to say I’m on good terms with my now-former manager and he’s happy where he is at now.  Pastor John recently helped me to think differently about my job, through one of the sermons he preached. Instead of thinking of my job as a “necessary evil,” especially when I’m stressed,  God spoke through my pastor, and they helped me realize that I am at the job I’m in for a reason—to give hope to others and to spread Christ’s love there.  Yes, my job gets very stressful at times, but as long as I’m doing what God (and those He put over me at work) commanded me, God’s sovereign will and His faithful love will cover me during those times.  Pastor Don* and Pastor Todd* also taught me how to more effectively relate to others through how they are patient with others and willing to serve wherever they are called.

Another thing that my pastors have taught me is how to be more authentic, both in my relationship with God, and others.  One of the things that I always appreciate about people in general is their willingness to admit fault and to be vulnerable, and not try to maintain this “perfect fake image” in front of others.  All my pastors model this to a good degree, but I have especially appreciated this coming from Pastor Todd. One time he admitted on the pulpit that he got pulled over for speeding! Thankfully, because the police officer liked our church, Pastor Todd got off with a warning.  I found this vulnerability and honest confession refreshing in an age where there are many church leaders who will try to hide their sins and flaws; with the appearance that they know “everything” and that they are “holier-than-thou.” There were other times too that Pastor Todd was open about his personal struggles with sin and temptation. This is refreshing to me because I feel that Pastor Todd’s honesty makes him more relatable to someone like me, who also struggles with sin and temptation on a daily basis. In other words, his vulnerability and authenticity makes him more human and trustworthy!

One of the most important things that my pastors have taught me is how to be more passionate about Jesus Christ.  All of them have emphasized, over and over again, God’s love and sovereignty over the whole world.  I learned from Pastor John that God’s sovereignty intervenes in our whole lives, down to the bosses we will have and the parents we have.  I learned from Pastor John that if we loathe our bosses and constantly complain about them, we also have a problem with God, because it is He who put them there in our midst, possibly to teach us something or for God’s sovereign and good purposes in our lives!  This has taught me in order for me to be more passionate about Jesus that I need to trust Him even in the tougher circumstances of my life, and not to complain about the people He decides to place in my life.  I learned from Pastor Todd that in order for me to be more passionate about Jesus, I need to learn that Jesus loves me very much and He always has good in mind for me, according to His purposes.  I learned from Pastor Todd’s teaching on the book, “God is More Than Enough,” that when I become discontented with my circumstances, I need to check my heart to eliminate any worldly and selfish desires on my part, especially the want for something more than what Christ has already graciously provided me.  Pastor Don, Pastor Todd, and Pastor John all have taught me the importance of spreading the Good News and to show God ‘s love to all those around us, even those we may consider our enemies.

Because of my pastors’ commitment to teaching exactly what Jesus taught, and because they strive to live authentic and blameless lives, they have helped strengthen and shape how my faith is today. Of course, none of us are even close to perfect, but I will always appreciate the good that these three men have done in our church and in my life.

*=names have been changed for privacy reasons

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Hope-Giver

 

written:  11/30/2018

Once I was lost and alone

Looking for hope and love

The true kind from up above

The kind that would never die

 

I was dealing with much pain

People caused me much hurt and strife

But you came into my life

And brought healing to my soul

 

You gave me true love and care

You gave me value and hope

When I was on my last rope

You are my great hope-giver

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What I Learned About God’s Goodness This Month

Photo by Charles 🇵🇭 on Unsplash

     This month (August 2019, as of this writing) has been a busy and stressful month, but I am grateful for all God has done in my life during this time.  Right now, we are in the process of remodeling our countertops, since ours was outdated. We had waited for a month to get it done. During that time, my family and I were tempted to question if it would ever get done. We had to take out the kitchen sink, so we had to walk to the laundry room sink to cook or even wash our hands.  Everything in the drawers and cabinets also had to be taken out.

Right now, I hear the workers coming in and out of our house to set the VERY heavy countertops in our kitchen.  Thankfully, the weather is nice, and not excessively hot or cool, so opening the door outside is not a problem. Also, the workers would not get too exhausted, since it is not excessively humid or hot. 

Not only in the matter of the countertops, but also in other areas of my life, God has been working to show me that He is always good, even when we, or our circumstances, are not.  I learned that:

  1. God puts trials in our lives to grow us.
  2. God always provides for our needs.
  3. God always works things out for the good of those who love Him (Romans 8:28)

First of all, God puts trials in our lives to grow us.  I will be one of the first to admit; I have an aversion to trials, mostly because of anxiety and fear that things may turn out disastrous once I’m in the trial.  However, thinking about some of the trials that I have been in throughout my life, even this month, I have seen that most of them have helped me grow in my character and trust of God.  For instance, this week I worked at another location than the place I normally work.  Because I have a tendency to get lost in place where I’m not familiar, I had someone drive me. However, their car overheated on the way there.  Immediately in our minds, we were understandably (my co-worker more than me) stressed out and I even was thinking that I may not be able to get to the location at all! However, I tried to stay calm, while my co-worker asked for help.  Eventually, we were able to get to the location we were supposed to be working at after that.  Moreover, God provided someone else to drive me back to my regular workplace safely, and a friend to take my coworker to get his car towed and repaired.  Through this little trial, God taught me to trust Him to provide for me, and that I didn’t have to panic or get anxious during a trial.  Sometimes, I have even found that God allows trials in our lives to prepare us for the future. For instance, the experience with not having a kitchen sink for a month, and even working in another location, may be preparing me for something in my future or even to grow more versatile career-wise.

Second of all, I learned that God always provides for our needs. Even when we didn’t have a kitchen sink, God provided the laundry room sink so that we could wash our dishes, our hands, and cook (to get the water).  When I worked in the other location, I learned to be grateful that I am working where I am at now, and not to gripe about it, even if others around me may be.  I learned that where I’m working at now is really a decent place to work and is the right place for my personality, my giftedness, and the season of life I’m in right now, despite people around me quitting or encouraging me to quit.  When God provided a job for me at my current workplace location (On how I got my current job, click here.), He knew what He was doing, and His plan was good and perfect for me! 

Finally, God always works things out for the good of those who love Him.  Last week, I was a little bit concerned about having to work the whole department by myself this past Monday and Tuesday.  God knew I would be overwhelmed if I had to work those days in my normal location. So, an hour after I was clocked in on Monday and started doing freight, one of my managers asked, “Patricia, would you like to work at [name of other location]?

I said, “ I can’t drive far distances in locations I am not familiar with.  First of all, I don’t have GPS. I also get lost really easily when I have to drive to places where I’m not familiar with, but if there is someone that could drive me there and back, I could.”

My manager replied, “if [name of a co-worker] is willing to drive you, would you come?”

I replied, “Sure.”

So, I ended up working at the other location on Monday.  After I came back to my normal workplace location, one of my higher up managers wanted me to work at that same location I was in Monday, and I agreed.  My anxiety over having to work the entire area by myself on Monday, and especially Tuesday, melted away, because I didn’t really have to work the department at all!  Moreover, there were not too many customers those days, so the area wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be when I came back to work in my regular location on Wednesday with my co-worker Todd*.

This sure has been a busy and hectic week, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything, because God has taught me so much.  Though I knew intellectually that God is good, now I can see God’s hand and His goodness more clearly in my life.  May you see the goodness of God in your life as well!

*=name has been changed to protect the privacy of the individual mentioned.

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Why I Have Hope Everyday

Image by Wokandapix from Pixabay

I wrote on April 9, 1999, when I was still in high school: “I wish I could be more […] effervescent (lively). I feel dead without being physically killed. I hope I don’t die emotionally, but I am dying. If I could only find that zest, that greatness life is supposed to hold. But where is it, at least in me?”  I had no hope. I was fine physically, but I was slowly dying inside. 

I’m thankful that I didn’t die or take my own life.  Though I didn’t know it on April 9, about one year later, I would find Hope. Hope that helped me through the storms, and come out on the other side being greeted with a beaming joy and confidence that I had only dreamed of years before. Hope has also given me drive to persevere, even when I thought I could never make it. Hope has redeemed relationships that I thought were forever shattered.  Hope has taken the junk in my life, and made it a treasure. 

Hope was, and always is, Jesus.

Hope has given me purpose to live.  Before I became a follower of Christ, I was living aimlessly, for myself. I had adequate material things, but I never really thought about blessing others with it.  I wanted to excel academically, but that was getting more and more difficult, and my limitations were becoming more apparent. 

With Jesus, I have realized that the world is so much bigger than me. With Jesus, I am able to partner with Him to share His great love and hope for a world that is looking for something bigger than the pain and the drudgery that life often brings.

Hope has given me a light at the end of the tunnel. I still struggle with depression occasionally, but now even in it, I have hope that God will bring good out of even that.  I have hope, because God’s strength and light will help me overcome a depressive episode.  I have hope because God has surrounded me with a group of people who love and care for me.

Hope has given me renewed confidence and joy that I had never known before.  Since I found Hope, He has provided me with several communities of believers who have had my back and who care for one another.  This support network I have had has helped me through some of the toughest times of my life, and even helped deliver me from some really bad situations.

Hope has provided me with my current job and some great managers, including several that believed in me enough to help me learn new things.  I want to give a shout out to my now-former manager Elizabeth* who believed in me enough to allow me to train to be a back-up cashier and learn some managerial tasks as well.  I want to give a shout out to my now former manager Chris* who took the chance and first hired me. 

Hope has provided me a great mentor, in J, who always believed in my abilities and was God’s message to me that He would use me to accomplish His great will in my life. 

Hope has provided me countless wonderful friends who have put up with my depressive episodes and have helped cheer me on. 

Hope has given me much hope for the future. Hope has given me freedom from the shackles that held me back in my past. 

caring, community, eternal matters, family, friends, goals, God, goodbyes, joy, life, life lessons, love, pain, positivity, purpose, stories, thankfulness, truth

More Than I Could Ever Dream

-written 3/5/19

When I was growing up, I was a naughty and very active child.  Despite my energy, I did not really have any close friends.  Back then, I dreamed of one day going to a prestigious university, like my parents, and getting the best grades possible. I probably thought, unconsciously, that if I made it to a prestigious and a good university, I would then be able to get a job that would pay me a lot of money, and thus I would win friends and influence.

Indeed, I worked very hard in school and got decent grades.  However, I really didn’t have passion for the content of what I studied; I just wanted to do well to please my parents and also to be “the –girl-who-worked-hard-and-got-the-best-grades.”   I wanted to be respected and valued. In retrospect, getting good grades at school became a sort of idol for me.  I worshipped the god of achievement, and without it, I reasoned that I was worthless.  

Shattered Dreams

(courtesy of photobias)

Then, when I was sixteen years old, I struggled through several classes. I no longer got the grades I wanted or needed. I was even in danger of failing a class. One of my teachers even said in so many words that he didn’t believe I would ever amount to much in this life, probably partly due to the fact I wasn’t doing so well in his class. I also lacked peer support. In fact, no one in my class dared to counter what that teacher said to me. I also I felt my family could not relate to the turmoil inside me, as they seemed to be living a different life.  In fact, in a journal entry from April 1999, I had written, “I wish I could be more […] effervescent (lively). I feel dead without being physically killed. I hope I don’t die emotionally, but I am dying. If I could only find that zest, that greatness life is supposed to hold. But where is it, at least in me?” I was so depressed that I wanted an escape, maybe to even end my life.

However, several months later, God saved me from that.  Fast forward a few years later, I went to college, but not at a prestigious university which I had dreamed.  After I graduated, I tried to look for work in my field of study, but to no avail.

After that, I finally found a part-time job in retail. There, I learned many customer service skills and other people skills I needed to succeed.  I did well there, but after a while, I felt God calling me to somewhere else—a place where I never thought I’d end up.  It was during that time, that God was preparing me for a new life, where He would give me more than I could have ever dreamed.

I was so excited when I got an interview at one of the local bookstores near where I lived! I had always dreamed of working in a bookstore!  I loved books, and the workers there seemed nice.  However, the day of the interview, I quickly found out that I wasn’t the right fit.  At this point, I didn’t think I would get another job opportunity any time soon. The search went on.

Metamorphosis

Then, one, cold wintry day on February 25, 2016, I went with my mom to the store I now work to buy a few things.  What I did not know was that trip would change my life forever.   

I asked the HR representative the status of my resume, and after that she offered me to interview at 1 pm.  Since I didn’t have adequate time to prepare or change into more formal attire, my mom and I ate lunch at the mall nearby, and then I went back to the store to get interviewed.  When I got interviewed, I was so nervous and stuttering over my words, that I thought surely they wouldn’t accept me. To my surprise, I got a job offer! I waited until the next day to accept, after I sought counsel from my family.  On March 10, I officially started at my current job.

Meanwhile, many people were leaving my now-former church. I loved that church, but inside there were so many changes that it rocked the congregation. About half of the congregation left or were in the process of leaving.  At about the same period of time, my brother told my parents and me that he was going to go to school in Texas to get his Master’s degree.  What I didn’t know then was my brother was going to live there permanently.

I felt, except for my new job, that my dreams were going to be shattered all over again.  I would either have to accept the changes at my now-former church or find somewhere different to worship. Not going to church wasn’t even an option for me.  I would also have to adjust to life without  some of the support of my brother.

My brother left for Texas in August 2016. The day he left, the house felt hollow and quiet. The basement that used to be full of my brother’s stuff was now almost bare, but habitable again.  My dad went with my brother to help him move.  My mom and I remained at home.  I felt numb and solemn that day. My heart felt like there was something missing—the void where my brother’s physical presence radiated my life.

Then, in mid-October, I said goodbye to the church that I had been attending for about ten years.  It was very hard, as I had established so many friendships there, and these people were like a second family to me.  Before I left to visit a church nearby, I was in tears, as I said goodbye to some of the congregants.

However, there was a very bright spot, in the midst of all the goodbyes, a month before I left my now-former church.

In September, I was working the swing shift, and one of my managers, Hope* was closing with me.  She was complimenting me about my performance that day. Since I was still part-time, I told her, “I am thinking of becoming full-time. However, Chris*, my manager, said I should wait a while. I was wondering how long I should wait.” Then, Hope replied, “You shouldn’t have to wait. You deserve full-time.”  Later on, or the next day, she put me in for full-time. Later, Chris also approved my full- time status. I was ecstatic!  Because of all the challenges that I had to face, I never dreamed I would ever get a full time job in my life! 

A month later, after I had left my former church, I visited another church.  It had many more people than the one I had previously visited.  A friendly couple greeted me and I sat by them.  Even the pastors were friendly. The sermon that day was very thought-provoking and relatable to what I was going through in my life. I didn’t know yet if this was going to be my new home church, but I liked their genuineness and their devotion to the Word of God, so I kept going. In August of the next year, I officially became a member of my current church.  Through my church, I have learned how to have an engaging quiet time with God, how to view life more positively and differently than most of the rest of the world, and how to forgive people who have hurt you deeply.


God’s Perfect Plan

No, I never got the six figure salary I had dreamed of, nor did I get into a prestigious college. However, I have been blessed with more than I could have ever dreamed. Through my church family and people at work, I have gained a strong support system. Also, I am still in touch with several people from my old church, who I still consider good friends, even though they live very far away from where I am now.  Through the tough situations I find myself in at work, God has used those to strengthen and shape my character into His.  Through church, I continue to train to be able to share the love and hope that I found in life through God and His gracious plans for me.  Yes, I still have bad days, but overall, I have found more joy and satisfaction during these past two years, than at any other time in my life. God has certainly blessed me with more than I could ever dream!

*=names have been changed for privacy reasons

caring, community, credos, eternal matters, God, integrity, joy, life, life lessons, love, positivity, purpose, thankfulness, truth, work

Undeserved: Why Everything We Get Is A Gift

I believe that most of our problems in relationships stem from an “I-deserve-better” attitude.  This past Friday (at the time of this writing), a disgruntled former employee opened fire and killed five of his co-workers at a manufacturing facility, about a half hour from where I live. I attest one of the reasons why he got so angry was because he thought he truly deserved the job, and when his bosses fired him, everything in this former worker unraveled before him.  Though most of us would not murder when we don’t get what we think we deserve, we can still get tempted to get similarly angry when our “rights are being violated” or we think we aren’t “getting the good we deserve in this life.”  This causes us, me included, unfortunately, to become defensive and angry at those around us…and even at God.  However, a good thing to keep in mind, especially if you are a follower of Christ, is, “every good gift and every perfect gift is from above” (James 1:17a) and that we don’t really deserve anything!  When we have a mindset that everything good in this life is undeserved and is a gift of grace from above, this entitlement attitude starts to disappear. However, in the society we live in, especially if you live in a Western country, this entitlement attitude is deeply ingrained in us, me included, that I think we need to learn how to embrace the “gift” mentality instead.  Here are some things that I have learned about why we should strive to treat whoever and whatever comes our way as gifts, not as something “owed” to us.

When we think we are entitled to someone or something, we are not acknowledging that God really owns it all.  However, when we acknowledge that everything we get is a gift from God, we are recognizing His control and His power over our lives—an important aspect of true worship. My pastor said today that we must be willing to be a living sacrifice in order to truly worship God, and part of being a sacrifice is relinquishing our rights to His control.  If you work, even the money we “earn” from your job is a gift because it is God who gave you the abilities and skills to do your job well enough to be able to sustain employment and thus a paycheck! I wonder if the recent shooting on Friday could have been avoided if, when the man who shot five people at his job got fired, instead of getting angry at this perceived injustice, he just appreciated the money he had already gotten from his job and just appreciated the gifts he still had in his life more. 

When we see everything we have as a gift, and not something that someone “owes” us, we become more able to be content with life, even with its caveats and imperfections.  Think about how it feels when you get a gift that you totally do not expect or deserve.  Not only are you most likely to feel intense joy, but also, more likely, an overwhelming sense of gratitude and humility towards the person who gave you the gift.  When we strive to approach our lives the same way, each blessing we get will cause us to feel joy and gratitude.  However, when we think we are owed something or that we “earned” something, we are not as grateful because whatever we get is our due, anyway, or so we believe. This is why most of us get upset when we don’t feel we are getting what we perceive is owed us. We see it as an injustice, a violation of our moral rights.  However, if we take away the “scoreboard”  in our souls of things supposedly owed us, this anger has no longer has any place to reside, and will melt away.

When we see everyone and everything that is given to us as a gift, we tend to value them more.  For instance, if my friend gives me something that I perceive is from his or her heart and that is not owed me, I tend to want to take better care of it, so that I don’t lose the preciousness of the gift.  This not only applies to material gifts, it also applies to treating each person as a gift from above.  When we treat each person as a gift from above, instead of someone or something disposable or suited only to meet our needs, we tend to treat them better.  I have witnessed and heard in many different workplaces, unfortunately, of people being treated like disposable objects, or at best, tools, if you will, instead of the precious, complex image-bearers of God they are.  This mentality seems to be growing worse and more prevalent, not only in workplaces, but also in other social constructs as well.  However, when we go against the grain and strive to treat each person we encounter as the precious gifts they are, we can not only touch lives, we can change the world around us for the better.

father valuing his child as precious

When we acknowledge everything we get is a gift, not something we are owed, we are most ready to worship God rightly; we are more likely to be content and grateful with our lives, and we will value those around us more.  This week God has been teaching me over and over again that everything I get from Him is a gift, and not something I could really deserve or earn.  When I realize all that has been given to me, I realize that I am blessed beyond measure by a God who gives me more than I could ever deserve.