Best Advice Given

I believe that life is a teaching tool for us to be able to constantly improve ourselves and to learn as much as possible.  Though plenty of people have given me bad advice, there have also been many people that have given me valuable advice that has greatly impact my worldview and the way I live.  Here is a list (in quotes) of some of the best advice I have ever received in my life,  how it has encouraged or taught me about life, and why I think this advice is so good:

(In no particular order…)

  1. “Always do your best.”- my dad. – My dad not only has said pretty much this quote, he also has lived it. He sometimes picks up the slack of others who are not willing or able to work as hard.  I strive to do my best every day, whether it is at my job, or with my interactions with others, or whatever I do.  I don’t want to do anything half-heartedly, and I feel (appropriately) guilty when I do less than my best.  The feeling I get when I accomplish something good and I know I gave it my whole heart is one of the best feelings in the world!
  2. “My response is my responsibility.”-Pastor David Shoaf – My pastor’s quote is completely convicting to me because I know I have, on occasion, blamed someone for “hurting me” without taking responsibility for a wrong response to them.  When I remember this piece of advice/admonition, I am able to bite my tongue and be humble enough to admit my part in a conflict, where I had the wrong response towards someone, even if that other person really did hurt me.
  3. “Never let those who hate you dislodge your love and faithfulness to the God who gave His only begotten Son to give all for you.”—Pastor David Shoaf—Along with advice #2, I think what Pastor Shoaf said really encourages me to not let my love for God and others falter, even when others hurt or betray me.  Tough as it is to not let evil or hurtful people discourage my love, I figure that these people will eventually get what they deserve, but more so, I can “heap burning coals on their heads.” That is, I can let my love convict them of their actions, so that they will feel bad and improve their behavior. Also, sometimes the nastiest people are the ones that need our love the most.
  4. “Don’t let people say you can’t do something.”-J—This was said by my mentor J. I was so discouraged when I first met her because many people in my past had discouraged me from trying new things, and didn’t believe in what I could do. She not only said these words to encourage me, but also showed me she meant those words by always believing I could do the things that others may have thought I could never do.  Now, even when I have trouble doing something, I try again and again until I get it right. This advice is so good for all of us because it keeps us going, even when times are tough. When we don’t let other people’s estimation of our abilities influence what we do, we can achieve almost anything!
  5. “People are neighbors to be loved, not commodities to be used.”—Jefferson Bethke—Even though I have never met Jefferson in person, how he lives and especially this quote, inspires me.  This is a good quote to remind us of the value of people.  I have said this before, and I will say it again: When we stop caring about people, we become monsters.  That can also be said this way: When we treat people like commodities to be used, instead of souls that are to be loved, we also become monsters.  This quote has helped encourage me to uplift and encourage people, and never to use others to my own advantage.
  6. “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.”–Jim Elliot—This was something that the famous missionary, Jim Elliot, said in regards to the eternal versus the temporal.  I have been realizing more and more that this is very true.  This piece of advice has encouraged me to loosen my grip on some material things and be more willing to share with those that are in need.  In loosening my grip on temporary things like money and outer appearance, I have found that I am more able to love and help people than when I become stingy or judgmentally vain.  I also have found that when I apply this quote to letting go of small annoyances that probably won’t be remembered even the next day, and not to fuss over these issues. For instance, if someone rudely bumps into me without saying excuse me, instead of getting very upset at them, I would just politely say, “Excuse me,” and walk away from them, and not dwell on the situation again.
  7. “Dear ‘helpers’- If you’re doing it for the gratitude, then it’s not about them, it’s about you.”—my online friend *Holly (*=not her real name), in regards to people who do things that they think are kind, but only so they will feel “good” about themselves and will be appreciated by the recipient.  — This piece of advice has helped me to make sure my motivations in doing something for others are pure, and are not tainted with selfishness and self-aggrandizement.  I want to have a pure heart when doing something kind for others, helping others so that they will be able to experience love and joy, not just so I will feel appreciated by them.  I don’t ever want to feel entitled to appreciation or even respect, but instead to know that these things are gifts from above.

These are some of the best pieces of advice I have ever been given. All these words of wisdom have helped shaped my worldview in a positive and more enlightening way for me.  They have helped me to be more giving and loving of others.  What are the best pieces of advice you have ever been given? How have they influenced your life? Feel free to reply in the comments.

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Godsend

written on 10/3/2018

— To everyone in my life who has believed in me

 

I felt alone for so long

I felt no one really loved me

Years of pain and hurt inside

I didn’t let anyone see

 

I was so torn and broken

I thought no one would love me

But my heart you would open

Healing the deep pain inside

 

You showed me abundant love

And gave me the strength to stand

Because you believed in me

And who I was meant to be

How to Cultivate Gratitude

I am happy and blessed with my life, though it is not always free of challenges and trials.  As I have shared before, I have struggled with depression since I was a little girl.  Though this was not the cause of all of my depression, I found that when I realized what I actually had rather than focusing on what I lacked; I found that I was able to cultivate more joy and gratitude into my life.  Yes, cultivating gratitude can sometimes be a challenge, especially when you are facing something tough and personal. However, it still can be done. Gratitude should be cultivated even more during times of prosperity and peace.  Here is what I am learning and have learned about how to cultivate a grateful attitude:

  1. Focus on what you do have, rather than what you don’t have: I believe that the number one barrier to being grateful is our focus. When we focus on all the things that we lack, we tend to develop an attitude of self-pity, which often leads to complaining and bitterness. When we focus on the things we do have, we realize just how much we are blessed. For instance, when I get frustrated at myself because I don’t know how to do something right, my focus is wrongly on the talents that I don’t have instead of my strengths. However, if I shift my focus on something I am better at—such as writing– I find that I can be much more encouraged and less upset at the thing in which I am struggling.  Many people who struggle with being grateful for what they have also struggle with envy because their focus is on getting (or wishing they had) something that someone else possesses, instead of what they have already been given.  For instance, I used to envy people who were happily married and had children, because, as a single, I did not have those for myself. However, when I instead focused on the relative freedom and time I had to help others, I realized the blessing that I had being single that these married people no longer had.
  2. Know that we are often given more than we deserve: Many people, including myself, at times, struggle with the fact that we get more than we deserve, because of our sense of entitlement. However, even though we have all hurt others, though maybe not all intentionally, most of us still have people that love and care for us, and we have some semblance of joy in our lives.  The fact that others still give us mercy even though we may have hurt them before should cause us to rejoice and be thankful!  If you drive, have you not gotten a ticket even though you were speeding through traffic? That is evidence of mercy!   Or you made a serious error at work, and your boss does not fire you? That, too, is evidence of grace and mercy!  Bring to mind the moments when you should have had to bear the consequences of your bad actions, but in God’s and others’ mercy, you didn’t have to.  Moreover, think of the times when you did something careless, but you were saved from disaster.
  3. Consider others who are in worse situations than you: Finally, a great way to cultivate gratitude is not to look at others who are doing better than you, but see the people around you who are in more difficult situations than you. For instance, some people I know have either a loved one struggling with a serious medical issue or are struggling themselves. This helps me to be grateful that my family and I are in good health, even though I may come home from work tired sometimes. Recently, at work, we had a celebration for the bonus that my co-workers and I were able to get on our last paycheck.   They served pizza. Though the pizza became cold after being out for several hours, I was grateful work provided pizza for us because of what I heard about the struggle of people in other countries to get any food at all. In particular, I was thinking about the people of Venezuela. I heard that since they have had an electrical shortage, meat cannot be adequately cooled in freezers, so eventually it becomes spoiled, but the stores sell them anyway because people need food. So, the people actually buy the spoiled meat, season it with some spices, and eat it!  Their dire situation helps me be grateful that we have so much food, electricity, and working cooling systems (freezers and refrigerators) in the U.S and that we can eat delicious, edible food that is not spoiled.

By focusing on all that God has blessed me with, by knowing that I am often being given more than I ultimately deserve and by considering people in worse situations than me, I am able to cultivate an attitude of gratitude for my life. When I do this, I find that I am not only able to be more thankful for what I have, but I am also to have more joy, even in the tough times. Even though we may face many challenges and struggles, we still can cherish and appreciate what we do have before it is too late.

If Words Could Say- a poem

poem written:   8/23/2018

 

If words could say how much you did here

If words could say how much you gave here

If words could say how much I learned from you

If words could say how much you cared

 

They would fill an ocean wide

They would reach the earth’s other side

The would reach further than the moon

They would never end very soon

 

For about you there is much to say

But not enough time in a given day

In which to tell you

All the things I want to say

 

Sometimes I know you fear

That you’re not valued here

But suffice to say

You inspire me

Every single day

 

 

 

How Suffering Can Build Character

Ever since I was an infant, I have always hated suffering.  I don’t only hate going through suffering and trials, but I hate to see other people I love in pain. Violence on television sometimes makes me cringe.  However, in the past few years, I have learned over and over again, had it not been for certain bouts of suffering in my life, I would have never been the kind of person I am now.  I am still far from perfect. However, I can attest that most, if not, all the trials in my life have served to strengthen and better me as a person.  Here is what I learned about how certain areas that I experienced suffering in my life have helped build my character.

Suffering physically/health-wise

For regular readers of this blog, you have probably read the story about when I almost died in June 2014.  To make a long story short, I started having more and more pain in my side area of my body. I thought it may have been from heavy lifting, until I started throwing up blood. Thankfully, the doctors and nurses found the source of the problem: my gallbladder, which was twice the size it should have been, inflamed, and had at least several gall stones in it.  Then, the next day, the gallbladder was taken out before it could have burst—just in time.  During and after this ordeal, I learned many things.  First of all, I learned not to take life for granted, especially the time spent with loved ones, because you never know when your time is up on this earth.  Secondly, I learned how lonely and depressing being sick and/or bed-bound can be. I only experienced this for about several days, and already I was depressed and had cabin fever.  I could only imagine how people who cannot get out of bed for weeks and months at a time must feel! Thus, this incident has caused me to pray more for people in my congregation who are sick and have more compassion for those that cannot get out of bed.  One of my pastors told the congregation about how people in our church who have been battling cancer do not come to the pastors first, but to other people who have been through the same thing they have, and thus would have more experience and compassion in how to best deal with their situation.

Being bullied in school and elsewhere

Some people I have met in the past few years would probably not believe that when I was growing up, I struggled a lot with making friends and was getting picked on regularly by my peers, because my life is so different now. However, I remember, especially in middle school and my first year of high school, people mocking me for everything from my ethnicity to the clothing I wore.  To make matters worse, most of the teachers were either unaware of what was happening or partly blamed me for being victimized by my own peers and thought I should try to “fit in” better.  (NOTE: Abuse and bullying is NE VER the victim’s fault!)  Also, some people pitied me and tried/pretended to be my friend, but they never stuck around long.  Even though these years were some of my most miserable and depressing, these events also served to strengthen my moral character. Out of these events, God developed in me a heart of care for all those who have ever been abused and/or bullied by others before. To this day, I have a strong urgency to do something to help those who have experienced abuse, bullying, or any other type of injustice. I do not want other people to experience the loneliness, desolation, and depression that I had experienced during some of those years in school.  I also don’t want people to think that they are unimportant or insignificant to this world, because every single person can make a positive contribution to this world. (Yes, this includes you!) If I had never been bullied in school, I would probably be extremely narcissistic and self-centered, as I was before this experience.  Even though I would not wish these experiences on anyone, I am thankful that I learned how to not treat people and thus, by default, know to treat others the way I would want to be treated.  I learned the high value of all people, even the ones that don’t stand out as much in this world.

Being unemployed or underemployed

There are many people I know that assume that most people can find a job in several weeks, and if they take longer that they are either “lazy” or “incompetent” in some way. I used to be one of those people when I was growing up.  However, during the times when I was looking for a job, I realized how arduous and discouraging the task can be, especially if you struggle with a disability or are somehow labeled as “different” from the normative idea of an “employable” person.  The interview itself can be very nerve-wracking. Something as insignificant as clothing choice or perfume smell can negatively impact an interview and also the chances of the applicant getting the job. This trial helped me in at least two ways: 1) I have more compassion for people who have a difficult time finding a job, but who still try, or even those that cannot work at all, no matter how hard they try.  2) I appreciate the job that I now have more because of the work and time it took me to get to where I am even now.  I work harder because I relish the joy of being able to be productive and make a difference in other’s lives.  I don’t take my job for granted, but have passion in what I am doing.

General suffering

In general, going through the trials I have has made me be able to comfort others who are going through similar things that I have gone through before. I am able to relate to them on a deeper, more intimate level, than if I couldn’t relate to them at all.  I have been able to develop more compassion for those who are suffering.  Also, I have hope, that, through the most difficult things that I experienced, that future trials will a.) Either not be as bad or b.) I will be able to overcome them with the help of God and of the people that will come into my life to help me through it.  Finally, through all the pain and hurt I have been through and witnessed others go through, I have realized both the value of people and time.  Because of this realization, I have been able to let certain irritants go  and just focus on making the best of my time with the people that love and care for me.

5 Destiny Encounters That Changed My Life

We all have those moments where just one person, one situation, or one moment can have an enormous impact on our lives. When I was growing up, I do not remember many, if any, such moments, even though I’m sure I had some. However, in the past ten years (mostly in the past five), I’ve had several such moments, that, as far as I know, will be forever seared in the memory of my heart. Of course, I know some of us may have destiny encounters that impact our lives in a negative way, but that is not my focus. All of these following encounters from my life have changed me for the better and have happened within the past ten years (with four out of the five happening within the past five!). In chronological order, these are my destiny encounters that have changed my life:

  1. Meeting my mentor J (circa February 2011-2012): After having a tough year in 2011-2012, because I was trying to get adjusted to a new pastor and also struggling through several relational issues with people, I needed a wise and caring mentor badly! I was also very frustrated because, although I was ready and eager to work, and had been looking for a job for some time, it seemed no jobs were the right fit for me. So, in February of that year, I met J for the first time. At first, I didn’t know what to expect, and, to be honest, I wasn’t expecting her to have that much of an impact on my life. However, over the years, she has helped me not only make peace with various people in my life, but also was instrumental in helping me land one of my first jobs. She, and some other people, also helped me find my current job, which has also made a huge impact on my life.  J has also been a tireless advocate and encourager and the first person to truly believe in my abilities and my potential.  Because of all her help, and some intervention from (I believe) God, I have much more purpose and meaning in my life than I have ever had before! My depression, which had dragged on and off for years, has finally, subsided substantially. Yes, it took a lot of work on my part to get to where I am now, but if it weren’t for J’s encouragement and help, I would not be where I am today.
  2. Meeting Veronica* (circa 2014-2015): I was at my previous church at an event. I don’t remember if it was some kind of celebration or party, or if it was a young adult bible study for people aged 18-35. I remember there being a crowd of people all around me, not really engaging with me, and seeing this young woman who I had not seen before, finding her way around the crowd and trying to engage with the others. So, wanting to engage with the crowd and especially to know more about this new woman, I went and introduced myself.  As it turns out, this young woman would become one of my closest friends! Veronica* and I are still in contact until this day. She has had an indelible impact on my life because of her infectious smile, general positive attitude about life, her genuineness, and her deep care for others, especially those who are hurting.  For example, one day, when I was having suicidal thoughts and was generally feeling close to hopeless after enduring an especially stressful day at work, her encouraging words and support gave me renewed strength to face the next day. I was no longer suicidal and had renewed hope in life and humanity. Through seeing and hearing about her serving the broken, hurting, and/or even the undeserving, she really opened my eyes to how to best care and encourage others, just as she had for me.
  3. Getting my current job (Feb-March 2016): There is a longer version of this event, here. After being turned down for one of my dream jobs at a bookstore, which turned out to not be a good fit for me anyhow, I was a bit discouraged. However, one wintry morning, when my mom and I happened to have to go to my current workplace, I asked the Home Office Coordinator about the status of my application, since I hadn’t heard back from them yet. When I asked her, she decided that I could interview at 1 pm! Because my workplace was a bit far from my house and my mom and I had other errands to run, I didn’t have time to change into decent interview clothes. When I was being interviewed, I was so nervous that I stumbled and stuttered over my words. I thought for sure I had flunked the interview. To my surprise, about an hour later, they offered me the job! However, I wasn’t sure if this job would be the best fit for me at the time. After seeking wise counsel from my family, I decided to take the job because of the opportunities that it presented.  About six months later, I was discussing wanting to be full time with one of my managers, and because she admired my work ethic and generally positivity, she eagerly changed me from part-time to full-time. And the rest is history!
  4. Deciding to come to my current church (October 2016): Many things were happening at my former church. It seemed like everyone was leaving, and some things were falling apart for me there.  My pastor there, who I admired and wanted to stay many more years, had been called to a different church.  We were being taken over by another church, which didn’t seem to be the right fit for me.  So, despite ten years of mostly good and encouraging memories and building relationships with the people there, I knew God was calling me somewhere else. I first tried attending a church down the road from my old one, but that one didn’t seem a good fit for me. Then, I attended my current church for the first time.  I knew of one person that went there—a friend of a friend. To my surprise, I found another friend who also went there and sang in the choir! I was so happy and surprised to see her and her husband there! Also, everyone was so friendly, but not overly so. People there seemed genuine, and the sermon touched my heart. However, I did not know if this was going to be my church home or not. I went several more times, and was so pleased with both the genuineness of the people there and the great, biblical quality of the sermons, that I decided to become a member less than a year later, in August 2017. The people in this church have deepened my relationship with God and others, a pastor there helped me to be able to study the Bible more effectively, another helped me forgive several people at work, and many people there helped me have not only more passion and love for God, but also for the people that I serve every day.
  5. Meeting my friend Ann* (circa January 2017): One day, when I was sitting in the break room and after praying, I heard a woman sitting with one of my other friends, talking about spiritual issues. I wondered if she was a Christian, because she used many of the same words a believer in Christ would, So, I asked her if she was, and she said something like, “Of course!” Because of our similar beliefs and passion for loving God and others, we began working together to impact our workplace positively with God’s love and kindness. For example, if someone is having a bad day, we try to encourage, or pray for them (if they allow us to). We also strive to demonstrate a hard-working ethic and a positive attitude to be a good role model for the others there.

These encounters all changed my life in ways that are only beginning to manifest themselves. They all gave me purpose and hope in my life where there was lack before. So, I encourage everyone to strive to be encouraging and uplifting to others, especially those that are hurting in some way. Who knows? Like my friend Veronica or my mentor J,  you may leave an indelible impact on someone else’s life.

*=not their real name

Metamorphosis

Metamorphosis

dedicated to: someone who inspires me

written on : 8/20/2018

When I first met you

You were full of grace

And I saw something true

A soul to embrace

 

Then the darkness fell,

Your light was hidden

The dark engulfed us

But then the sun rose

 

Again I saw your light,

Shining many colors

Like a butterfly

Flying in sunlight