Why I Believe in Miracles

Because miracles are rare and spectacular displays of divine affection and because life can be very difficult for many people, there are some that no longer believe in miracles. According to the Oxford-English dictionary, a miracle is, “a remarkable event or development that brings very welcome consequences.” (source: https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/miracle) However, I personally believe in miracles mainly for these three reasons:

  • Miracles cultivate hope in my life.
  • Because the demonstration of miracles by God in my life has saved me on more than one occasion.
  • Because God’s miracles have restored several of my relationships with others.

Often miracles, whether in literature or in people’s lives, happen when it seems like hope has run out. This has certainly been the case with me.  I believe the miracle of me becoming a Christian started when hope seemed to run out for me. I was sixteen years old and in high school. The teenage years are a turbulent time for many people, and I was no exception.  I just got out of coping with a couple of serious mental health issues, and I felt like I had no one I could really turn to or trust.  I had few, if any, friends and my course load at school was challenging. To top the stressors off, I encountered a teacher who had the reputation of being a bully and a verbal abuser.  I even flirted with the idea of suicide. However, after a friend of mine invited me to a bible study and I started to search for answers, God took a hold of my life, a few months later.

About fifteen years later, God saved my life again, but this time physically. (For more details on this miracle, see this post. ) It started when I was having pains in my side at work. My parents and I thought it was just a hernia or a muscle pull, so I tried all the over-the-counter medications we had.  However, when I started throwing up blood, we knew something was terribly wrong. Long story short, I went to the ER, and the doctors treating me discovered that my gall bladder was terribly inflamed and twice the size it should have been. I learned later that I could have very well died from this if I still had not listened to that voice inside after I had thrown up the blood! My gall bladder was then taken out just in time before it burst and caused any real damage.

About a week ago today, God saved my life yet again! I was driving to church, minding my own business. It was dark, but the street lights were on. I had the right-of-way, but a driver, not even seeing or caring about their surroundings, cuts in front of me to the point of almost colliding with me. Luckily, my instincts kick in, and I stop just in time to avoid colliding with the driver, as he or she just whizzes away.  I felt startled, but was very grateful that I was able to avoid a serious accident!

Some of the miracles, that I believe God has worked in my life, have also caused my once-broken relationships with certain others to be restored.  I can think of some people in particular where I did not think the relationships could be restored. I thought the best it would be is that we would quietly  tolerate each other and/or avoid each other as much as possible. I really thought (wrongly) that these people would ruin my life. However, because of the support of God, my family, pastors, and many of my friends at church and many prayers, the people who I have had problems with, have not only failed to ruin my life, but they have turned out to be one of my greatest blessings in my life thus far!  God also worked in my heart and life to let go of (i.e  forgive) the hurts that I held against them and really love them even more than myself.

If I had to list every little miracle God displayed in my life, I would be writing forever. However, these are some of the major ones in my life. This is why I believe in miracles.  Yes, life has been difficult, at times, for me, but then there is a bright light at the end of the tunnel. That is when miracles can happen. What miracles happened in your life? Why do you or do you not believe in miracles? Please discuss in the comments.

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How To Combat Jealousy

Have you ever encountered that little green monster? I don’t mean the creatures that are supposedly lurking underneath children’s beds.—I am talking about the very real experience of jealousy. Jealousy, as defined by me, is wanting something that someone else has so badly you want the person who has said thing to lose what they have. It could be a job or promotion that you wanted, or a fancy car that someone you know has (but that you can’t afford), and anything and everything else that you could want, but don’t have.

I admit, I sometimes get jealous of certain people who got the job or promotion I wanted. A few of them, I feel, aren’t even qualified for the position! In the past, I have even gotten jealous of my brother because I had felt he had it “easier” in life than I did (Nothing could be further from the truth, by the way.), while I struggled through school and through life. However, God has shown me (and is continuing to show me) these things to help me combat jealousy and conquer the green-eyed monster once and for all!:

  1. God showed me what I call The-Grass-Is-Always-Greener-on-the-Other-Side principle: One of the things that I learned this past year is that everyone has a story! In the above examples (the job story and the story about my brother), I have learned that a.) the people getting the job that I wanted do not have a very easy task! If they do something major wrong or make too many mistakes, they may even get demoted! And I never knew the more personal issues that they may hide from the world. My brother has had to work hard too, to get where he is right now. He has had different struggles than me, but struggles all the same. What I am saying is, the people who you envy so much, may not even have the ideal lives that you had imagined! In fact, they probably have similar or even more difficult challenges to face than we ourselves do!
  2. You are placed where you need to be, with the abilities and gifts you were given: Another principle I learned is that maybe I didn’t get what the other person had because it wasn’t the right timing or right according to what “fit” me to get said thing at the time. For instance, I really wanted to work mornings as a department manager for about a year now.  However, I believe God revealed to me that He had better plans for me.  First of all, if I worked mornings even to train for said position now, I would probably be getting significantly less hours than I do now, even as a full time associate, because many of the hours are now being allotted mid-shift, when I work now.  Moreover, I wouldn’t be able to minister and help as many people as I do now.  Also, as a theoretical example, if you couldn’t afford to buy the nice car your neighbor had, and had to walk to school and/or work, it may seem like a hassle. You may really want to have your neighbor’s car and even have resentment against your neighbor because she won’t even let you near her car.  However, what if by walking to work and/or school with others in your neighborhood you are more able to develop friendships and a sense of community with your other neighbors? Nothing happens by accident. You are placed where and when you are for a reason. Strive not to waste it!
  3. Everyone is valuable, regardless of rank or position.: I believe that, in general, society is being plagued by what I call the rank-value principle. The rank-value principle, in my definition, is the belief that certain people who rank higher or who have more worldly power are more valuable than lower-ranking, or less-powerful people. However, without the “regular” or “lower-ranking” workers, the CEO at a company wouldn’t be able to run the company very effectively or , at the very least, wouldn’t be able to expand his or her business very much. Sure, CEOs of companies or even your boss or manager, may have more power than you, but that doesn’t make you of less intrinsic value than him or her. This is why, I believe, James of the Bible says in James 2, “Are ye not then partial in yourselves, and are become judges of evil thoughts?,” in regards to this favoritism. What he is saying, is, in essence, that when you think that one person is more valuable than another based on a worldly-ranking system such as race, class, ranking in the company, ethnicity, sexuality, gender, or other distinguishers, you are becoming judgmental and devaluing others. If we let each person know that they had infinite value because of how wonderfully they were created, he or she would not so passionately yearn or even desire what belongs to another.

These are some of the ways that God has shown me to combat jealousy. Sometimes I do struggle with jealousy, as much as anyone else. However, when I focus on these above things, any jealousy that I had, fades away. What are the things that you have learned that helped you combat jealousy personally? Please feel free to discuss in the comments.

My Shining Star

My Shining Stardedicated to all my friends; you know who you are…

1/24/2018

 

For all the times, good and bad

We have gone through

For all of everything you gave me

My friend you will always be

 

I never ever want to hurt you

Or make you sad

And I always strive to give you

My very best

 

When your radiating presence

Touched my soul

It awakened the light inside of me

And made me more whole

 

I will never, ever forget you

Or the impact you made on me

Only promise me

That you will shine as the star

You already are

My Journey To Joy

My journey to joy started when I was 16 years old, the year that God became a part of my life and being. This life journey has been on-going, with a lot of stumbles and falls in between. However, with the help of God and others in my life, I am able to get back up again and then continue to live joyfully each day.

Getting Out of the Pit of Darkness and Depression

Shortly before God rescued me from my sins and from my hopelessness that I felt in life, I was on my last rope.  I had a teacher that I believed was verbally abusive. He told me in no uncertain terms that I would amount to very little in life. This was a message that I internalized for many years and it almost became a self-fulfilling prophecy, but God is merciful.  In addition to that, I felt much pressure from everyone around me, but most of all, myself, to do well academically in school and go to the college of my dreams.  Because this aforementioned teacher failed me and I felt trapped in this class, I felt hopeless and even suicidal at times.  Also, I didn’t have the emotional support of many of my peers or even most of my teachers.

Then, one day (see: testimony link for more details), one of the few friends that I had, invited me to her bible study at school. Even though I was not religious at the time, I was searching and wanted to please my friend, so I went. I didn’t become a follower of Christ right away, but after several months, one day in my bedroom, I gave my life to Christ.  This was the beginning of slowly (emphasis on the word “slowly”) getting out of the pit of darkness and depression.

College and my first taste of joy

A couple of years later, I went to college, albeit not the one of my dreams. I remember dorm life being very difficult and trying for me. However, there I met my first friends that encouraged me when I was depressed and helped me gain footing for my faith.

After college/The first signs of my growing in faith

The first two churches I attended after college gave me a foundation to my newfound faith in Christ.  They taught me who God was and how His influence could be applied to my life.  I also found more joy in the second of the two churches I attended because I felt like it was there that I felt the most loved.  When I was upset because of the stress of life, several people at this church supported me emotionally and reminded me of what I had in Christ.  They encouraged me to persevere in life. It was also during this time that I first developed a community of friends online, who also encouraged me in my trials and who I could encourage in theirs. I developed a sense of hope and a glimpse of joy in my life. However, my joy was not yet mature and there were still way too many times when I became depressed again.

Joy Grows By Leaps and Bounds

In June of 2013, I got my first job where I felt that I could do fairly well in it. Indeed many of the managers and associates valued my work there. I still talk to a few of the people I worked with there. There, I learned how to treat customers and clients, and more in-depth about the sales/retail industry and how things worked.  I also continued to build relationships with the people at the church I attended at the time.  This is the first time I remember that I could say that I had some semblance of joy in my life.  However, God had greater opportunities in store for me. In March of 2016, God was calling me to a different job, and in October of 2016, God was calling me to bless a new congregation as well.

My Current Life and How My Joy Has Grown Even More

How I got my current job was truly a miracle and a God-thing in itself. For more details on how I got my current job, see this link.  God has blessed me more in the past three years, than in the first thirty-or-so years of my life!  Besides getting a new job, I also went to a new church.  This church has been a godsend to me for many reasons. First of all, the pastor not only preaches great sermons applicable to my daily life, but he also lives what he preaches, something rare in these days, even among professing Christians.  Sure, he is not perfect, but he is humble enough to admit this.  Also, so many people in my current church have supported me and encouraged me in my faith or when I had problems at work or elsewhere.  Also, I love how this church prays for one another and aims to provide for those congregants in need.  Also, my mentor J has helped me a lot in this season of life to debunk the negative thoughts about myself that some people in the past had communicated to me through their attitudes, words, and actions.  She, as well as others in my life, have encouraged me to become more confident in my God-given abilities and see myself as God sees me, not as someone who is better than everyone else, but also not as someone who is worthless and bad either.  My current job has also been a tremendous blessing. Yes, there have been many difficult days and situations there too, but they –and also the blessings of my job—have both served to help me know God’s love for me better and have helped me become a better person.  Finally, it seems I have been able to let go of some of my past hurts and anger towards the ones that have hurt me. God has even helped me to either reconcile with these people or not let them affect my self-worth and attitude anymore (or at least less).

The Future of Joy

In the future, I would like to solidify my joy by dying to self. Yes, the concept of denying myself seems counterintuitive to my joy, but I don’t think it will.  This is because when one is living only for oneself, they often create strife and unhappiness for others, and because of that, end up miserable instead of truly joyous.  However, for me, dying to self will actually allow me more joy because I no longer have to worry about what others think of me and my desires will no longer be of urgent importance , and so I will no longer be so upset if I don’t get what I want in life.  For instance, if I do something nice for someone that some of my friends don’t get along with because I feel God prompting me to, I will no longer worry about my friends thinking I will “betray” them by doing something good for their “enemy”. I will be able to do it willingly and with joy because what my friends think will take a back seat to serving God and others.  Also, if my manager tells me to do something necessary (i.e.. something that their boss tells them must be done also) for the smooth running of the store but that feels stressful and uncomfortable, I will no longer feel the urge to complain and/or refuse to do it because I don’t like it. I will be more willing to do said thing with a better attitude and even joy than if my aim were to do things that I want to do just because I want to do them.

This is my journey to joy. It is on-going and there will be many stops and starts along the way, but I know with God’s help, my joy will become more and more mature.

Some People Who Have Strengthened Me (and what I learned from them)

By myself, I don’t think I would be a very strong person. However, with these and more people and the power of my God, I am strong.  There really is strength in numbers! These people have strengthened me either/both spiritually and emotionally. I am very glad that these people were brought into my life!

Without further ado, here are some people who have strengthened me in my life and what I have learned from them during those times:

  1. My parents—My parents have been there for me through thick and thin. They have strengthened me by instilling good principles in me for living a successful life, such as the value of hard work and sacrifice. For instance, my dad has worked long hours at his job, not necessarily because he enjoys it, but in order to provide for his family. Not only does he work long hours, but he works very hard when he is at his job. He does not dawdle, but is industrious. My mom has also sacrificed a lot for my family and me. She not only often picked me up, but also helped me with my homework when I needed to be aided.
  2. My brother—My brother has strengthened me emotionally by always helping me see the reality of things when depression or anxiety has clouded my mind. For instance, I was telling him about the stress at my job and how anxious I was that I was not going to get everything done on time, even though I tried my best. I was afraid that I would be penalized by not getting what I needed to done by the end of my shift.  He told me, in so many words, that I was worrying for nothing because a.) Even when I got assigned to a lot of things and didn’t get it done, the managers were understanding. b) I often got things done anyway.  He also told me that I could start prioritizing my tasks so that I wouldn’t have to “eat” the whole assignment at once, but I could just do it bit by bit, eventually getting everything done!
  3. J—My mentor J has also strengthened me by believing in me and that I could accomplish great things before she even saw evidence of anything I did! She helped me find a job and be able to overcome some of my major fears. Some of the things I learned from her are to never give up and to not doubt the abilities that God has given me.  For instance, before I got my current and previous jobs, I did not envision myself being able to work with so many people and be successful at it, but J told me to try anyway. I did, and although there are some difficult times for me, I believe that God has given me success in what I thought I could never do before.  When I wanted to give up on myself, she pushed me to move past my fears and insecurities, and persevere.
  4. My manager I—My manager I has strengthened me in a similar way to J. In the time that I have known her, she has believed in my abilities and has helped me succeed further at work by helping me to both persevere and to learn new skills need to move up in the company. Even though she has a lot on her plate, she tries to find time to help me and to motivate me to continue learning new things.  Even when I didn’t do well one time, she said, “This isn’t you.” because she knew that I could do better and believed in my ability to do better next time.
  5. My (former?) manager Chris*–Chris has helped me learn the value of patience and perseverance. He not only interviewed me for my current job about two years ago and influenced the store manager to hire me, but also helped me personally as well. For instance, when I was stressed out about something, he took the time to call my house and explain the situation to me, something I’m sure not a lot of managers these days are willing to do.  I have learned so much from him and my manager I.
  6. My friend Veronica* –During some particularly trying times in my life, my friend Veronica encouraged me and validated me.  I remember at least one time (probably much more though) where when I wanted to give up on life and on love, she gave me words of hope to persevere in God’s call for me.  She has always affirmed me, especially when I felt like I couldn’t affirm myself.
  7. My friend Erica*–She has always believed in me and my God-given goals in life. Like my brother, she helps me think logically through situations so that I don’t get an unrealistically pessimistic view on things. She has always been willing to spend time with me when she visits, and is willing to invest in me and others around her.  Her perseverance and her care have always been an inspiration to me.

 

 

These are some of the people that have strengthened me. These people are some of the most amazing people I know because they believed in me even when I was at my worst, and gave me hope when I was in despair and didn’t believe it would be better.  I will be forever grateful for them and what they have done to strengthen me.  Who are the people in your life that have strengthened you (especially during difficult times)? What have you learned from them? Please feel free to discuss in the comments.

 

*=pseudonyms to protect privacy

How You Changed Me (a poem)

Before I met You

I was on my last rope

I almost gave up all hope

Of ever becoming anything at all

 

But You transformed me

You made me see

Your light shining inside me

And gave me worth and hope

 

You breathed life into what was dead

With Your word I was fed

Precious nutrients to my hungry soul

Till again I was made whole

 

You have made me bloom

Into a precious rose

As you continue to grow me

Into what You made me to be

Why This Year Was The Best Yet

I can’t believe this year is almost over, and what a year it has been!  I am writing this, and it is about two and a half weeks from Christmas, but when you read this, it will probably be after Christmas.  I have learned so much about myself and others, both good and the things that need to be changed. Overall, this year, I have never experienced more joy and fulfillment during any other time in my life! Here is why, for me, this year has been the best yet and what I learned:

  1. I learned how to forgive and let go of the painful parts of my past.—Normally when people had hurt me deeply, I took a very long time to forgive them, mainly because I thought by holding on to my grudges I was exacting “vengeance” upon them by withholding my affection and love for them, and letting them “have a taste of their own medicine.” Then, after one of my pastors talked to me about being kind to someone who had hurt me deeply, I had an epiphany from God: I wasn’t really succeeding in changing or exacting the vengeance I wanted against the offending party or parties. I was only hurting myself and the people that loved me by holding these grudges, because I was also erecting barriers to my love for them unconsciously. I didn’t mean to, but I did anyway because the grudges that I held squeezed out all the love that I had for anyone, even the ones that didn’t do anything to offend me!  Moreover, the offending parties often weren’t even aware of how much they hurt me, or didn’t care. Then, when I let go of my grudges that I had for several people this year, I found that I was free to love not only them, but everyone else around me. I was more willing to take risks with them and others, because I knew that holding grudges and withholding affection was making me into a stingy, unforgiving, and miserable person to be around! I was also finally able to tell my mentor J about something relatively painful that happened to me in the past, and make peace with that painful event. Though I still wouldn’t trust the person that made that event painful, I forgive them and am not angry at them anymore.
  2. I became a member of my current church.—In October 2016, I felt God calling me to leave the church that I had been a part of for over ten years. I really loved the church, and I still keep in touch with and love the people that are still there. Then, I visited a couple of churches, one of them the one that I attend now.  At first, I wasn’t sure if God was calling me to stay or keep searching for other churches. However, each week, I kept going back to the church I attend now. I learned that the pastor there, Pastor David Shoaf, has served faithfully at my church for over 40 years, and that all the pastors and guest speakers that have ever spoken were very solid in the Bible and good at speaking. I especially like how Pastor Shoaf has taught the congregation to look in the mirror and thoroughly reflect upon our lives to make the necessary changes. I also love how the members of the church are willing to help those congregants in need or at least faithfully pray for them if they are unable to help.  On August 2017, I took a step of faith, and became a member of my current church.  I believe in what my church stands for, how they serve one another, and how they are striving to do their part to spread God’s love all over the world.
  3. I became closer to God as a result of His work in my life.—God has been shaping and molding me since the day I got saved. However, He has worked in and through me, especially this year. He has helped me to see things that I had never quite grasped or seen before. God has really opened my eyes to much of His wisdom. For instance, one of the reasons that I sometimes had problems with people at work, at home, and/or other places, is because of how I thought about a situation. Then, my Sunday school teacher recommended a book that really opened my eyes to my thought problems. It was called “Loving God With All Your Mind” by Elizabeth George. One of the things author Elizabeth George talked about was that love doesn’t think evil of anyone, which I was sinfully doing when I was upset at someone.  For example, when someone didn’t do something they promised me that they would, I had often thought that person was intentionally lying to me, or didn’t care about me. However, later I found out that because of some unforeseen circumstances, they couldn’t do what they had promised, even though they had every intention of carrying it out. Now, I am trying to be more intentional of not thinking badly about someone when they disappoint me or don’t act in the way that I expect.
  4. I am using my degree in college to show others God’s love for me.—I started my blog in 2015, but really wasn’t so intentional about posting regularly until either late last year, or early this year. This is also around the time when I joined a blogging group online, which has helped me not only to gain more visibility for my blog, but also to learn about other topics that I hadn’t yet explored in my life. Supporting other people’s blogs by reading, commenting, and/or following their content, has helped me learn about others and gain knowledge in more areas that I didn’t know would interest me—such as cooking and travel. I had a writing degree in college (after switching to it from a Biology degree my sophomore year of college) that lay mostly dormant for a long time, until these past two years.  This year, especially, God has helped me to use my writing abilities to show people His love and to inspire people to live a more joyful, fulfilling life, becoming all that they are meant to be. This is what I hope to accomplish these next years for this blog.

This year (2017) has been the best year yet of my life because I finally learned to forgive people that hurt me, both in my distant and recent past.  I became a member of my current church, and that helped me to become part of a community that has similar life purposes to me.  I have become closer to God as a result of His work in my life, and I am finally able to do something worthwhile with my writing abilities.  This, and I’m sure many other things as well, has made this one of the best (if not, The Best) years ever!