An Open Letter to My Facebook Friends

Dear Friends,

I have been saddened by the general climate of the world around me. So many people are hurting, and some people seem to have the need to be nasty to others.  Despite it being the holiday/Christmas season, it seems that a lot of people are more stressed than ever.  I think Roy L. Smith was right when he said, “If one does not have Christmas in his heart, he will never find it under a tree.”

So, how do we have Christmas in our hearts, or how can we have joy and peace this holiday season?  The answer is simple, yet difficult to do: We need to love each other like we never have before.  I don’t mean the mushy, romantic type love. I don’t even mean just friendship love. I mean the all-out, sacrificial, agape love!

Many around you carry deep pain and hurt inside.  Some may have lost a loved one around the holidays. You may even be one of these people, and to you, I say this: There is hope when you can be vulnerable and tell a trusted friend or loved one how you have been feeling, so that you can begin to heal.  Someone out there cares for you. Don’t give up.

If you are not, or if you are already in the process of healing, I say this: Do not let the stresses and pressures of life allow you to overlook these people. Do not let your heart become calloused and apathetic to the hurting people around you. Always strive to be compassionate and caring to others.  It could make a world of difference in their lives, and could even save a life! Don’t just ask someone how they are doing and walk away. Listen to and try to be genuinely interested in what they have to say in response.

Always try to uplift people and encourage them. If you see a peer or co-worker doing a good job, thank them for their efforts.  If someone is down on themselves, encourage them by pointing out the good you see in them.  If someone thinks no one cares about them, tell them that you do and then demonstrate that love and care by doing a tangible act of kindness for them.  Maybe it can be as simple as a kind, encouraging word. Or maybe it can be watching their kids, if they have children.

This can take us out of our comfort zone, especially if we don’t like some of the people we are dealing with, but it is well worth it.

Friends, let us bring joy and love to the hurting people around us today and help them experience the best Christmas or holiday ever!

Patricia

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Precious

-written 11/4/2018

I have seen you struggle all your life

Among others you have had much strife

People treating you like just a toy

For them to just use and then destroy

 

But they don’t know the light in your soul

The light that makes you awesome and whole

They don’t know the joy you brought to me

Or how precious you will always be

 

Don’t let their dark extinguish your light

Remember your value in my sight

Because you’re unique and set apart

And that I love you with my whole heart

A Shining Light

-poem written: 10/17/2018

In a world of darkness and pain

Where they treated you with disdain

You were reaching your very last rope

But, in me, you saw glimmers of hope

 

God sent me to show you His love,

Agape love from up above

The one that would never leave you

The one that would show itself true

 

I, too, was a sad, lonely soul

Looking for someone to make me whole

In God, I found a love so true

The love that’s now shining in you

 

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

My Top Deal-Breakers in Friendships (and their counterparts)

Even though I am happy to meet and cultivate friendships with many different kinds of people, there are some things that I will never tolerate if you consider yourself a close friend. These deal breakers are not prejudiced against someone’s gender, sexual orientation, religion, socio-economic status, or any other human identifier, but have more to do with the person’s character.  These deal breakers include: 1) Hurting me or my loved ones in some way, and not apologizing or repenting of your actions.  2) Betraying me in some way. This includes pretending to be my friend in order to manipulate me in some way.  3 )If I find out one is abusing children or animals in some way.  All these deal breakers involve people who may think they are my friend (or not), but do not demonstrate the authenticity or the care needed to be a friend to me—or to anyone else.  Here is why:

The Deal Breakers

If I find out one of my friends is hurting either me, or more likely, my loved ones in some ways, this is a definite deal breaker for me.  First of all, I will not surround myself with people who intentionally want to hurt my family or my friends who I love. If they change their behaviors and attitudes towards my loved ones, then I will most likely forgive them.  However, if they don’t, then they are a distraction and a harmony-breaker, and are not someone with whom I would ever want a close relationship.  I do not need friends who bully or attack those I Iove in my life, and I will not tolerate them. For instance, if my parents or brother lets me know someone is or was hurting them, and this person hasn’t apologized or repented of their actions, I may still talk to them or be cordial to them, but I will not allow them to examine the depths of my heart—or that of my loved ones.

Another definite deal breaker for me if I have considered you a friend is if you do something to betray me in some kind of way.  One thing I absolutely hate is when people fail to be honest with me! When someone lies to me, it not only calls their character into question, but it also calls the friendship and how much they really value me into doubt as well.  One way to lie that is an absolute deal breaker for me is to be my friend only to use me for your pleasure or purpose! I do not tolerate narcissistic people who I know are using me and not really being genuine in their intent or friendship with me.  For instance, I have found out, probably much too late for my good, that several people that were in my life only wanted to be friends with me because either a.) They felt sorry for me and only wanted to be friends with me to “feel good” about themselves, and when they did not want to do the work of a real friendship, they faded away.  b) They wanted people to give them unconditional support and if I tried to correct them (even gently), they became upset with me, showing their true intentions.  C) They wanted to be “friends” with me just so they could do with me according to their pleasure, never thinking about what I needed or wanted from them.  These people definitely merit my INFJ (What is an INFJ? Read this, for more information) door slam! A door slam is basically a sudden form of going no-contact with someone, either emotionally or physically, or both.

The third, and perhaps, most serious deal breaker, is if I find out one of my friends is abusing children or animals, or any other of the most vulnerable in society. I can tolerate many things from many people, but cruelty is not one of them.  If you are cruel to this point, I probably don’t even converse with you.  Cruelty to children, animals, and any of the most vulnerable in society, not only saddens me, but enrages me as well. Unfortunately, sometimes I have had vengeful thoughts against those who would be so cruel to others, and if I find out you are like this, are not repentant, and still want to be my friend, I will cut off all contact with you, no questions asked.

The Counterparts

I did not want to finish without focusing on the positive characteristics I most appreciate in those I consider good friends.  They are:

Authenticity—Most of the deal breakers I described above are evidence of people who are not genuine and have very calloused souls. However, I am happy to say that all my close friends have characteristics of authenticity.  My one friend, Veronica*, for instance, is not afraid to be vulnerable with herself or with the struggles that she is facing in her life. I appreciate that kind of honesty and openness in her.  My other friend, Kelly,* is also honest about her struggles and always strives to care for and appreciate her friends, as much as possible.  I know that some people may be afraid of sharing their struggles, because they are afraid of being judged. Don’t be.  It is better for you to be unapologetically who you are, flaws and all, no matter what others think, than to be some plastic image of perfection.  If you don’t want to be friends with someone, say so, and then distance yourself from them. I know I may sound a bit harsh, but it is better to do this, than to pretend to be friends with them, when what that person probably needs is a genuine and caring presence.

Caring—All of the deal breakers had focused on people who are basically manipulative, cruel, selfish, and apathetic to the damage they cause to the ones around them. However, I am blessed to have friends who exhibit none of those traits.  My friend Erica* is giving her life right now to help those in need.  My friend Kelly* is a registered nurse, who wants to travel to restore the health of those who are sick or injured.  My friend Veronica* also has a passion for others finding the joy and love she has found in Jesus.  We care for people when we think of others besides ourselves and our own needs.  We care for others when we think through things before we do them, to discern if the action will also benefit others.  We care for others when we seek to love others and share the joy that we have found in life with those around us, especially those who need it most.

Hard-working—One of the characteristics I almost always appreciate in people is when they strive to do something with all their hearts, rather than to just meet the “status quo”.  I am glad that Kelly* is able to become a nurse because I believe her drive and passion for helping others makes her the best qualified for a career like that. I appreciate that many of my managers strive to work hard, even coming in on their days off sometimes, to make sure the work is done well.  I appreciate that many of my friends, especially those closest to me, are very hard working and strive continually to make the world around them a better place.

 

So, the best way to have a good friendship with me—and with others as well, is to be authentic, caring and kind, and hard-working.  However, the worst way to try to be friends with me is to be inauthentic in some way or to be callous and mean-spirited toward my loved ones, towards those who are most vulnerable in society, and to me. What are your deal breakers in friendships? Why? What are the characteristics that you value in your friends? Why? Feel free to discuss in the comments.

 

*=not their real names

5 Convictions I Strive To Live By Everyday

On this Labor Day (a holiday celebrating resting from work in the U.S, though, ironically I’m working that day!) Weekend, I have been thinking a lot about what my future may be, what I’m doing with my life now, and how I can improve myself and help others. What I keep coming back to, in pondering all this, are these following convictions on which I base my life.  These convictions have developed both by my growing relationship with God, and all the things that I have been learning from those that God has put in my life.  Here are these convictions, how I plan to continue to implement them into my life, and some of the people who inspire me to live these:

  1. Be authentic.—There is little else that angers me more than someone who lives to lie and deceive others, or who claim to have a life of truth and love, but their actions tell others, otherwise. On the other hand, I appreciate those who are able to be honest and vulnerable, even at the risk of their own reputations. I aim to be someone who appreciates, encourages, and lives authenticity.  I want people to be able to be real with me. I do not appreciate when people lie because they are too afraid to tell the truth. When people share their hearts with me without hesitation and with all honesty, I always strive to value that. One person that I believe had an authentic soul was Rachel Joy Scott, one of my faith heroes, who was murdered in a school shooting, almost 20 years ago.  She didn’t hesitate to write about and discuss her struggles with her faith, and she lived her faith in Christ well–loving others as she had been loved by God and others through caring about the new people in her school, the disabled, and the hurting.
  2. Do your best.—My dad always encourages me to do my best, even when doing so, may not always produce desirable results. My dad does not expect perfection of my brother and me, but he does expect our very best.  However, I did not fully heed this practice until an incident in fourth or fifth grade, when I refused to read a book about the Gold Rush because it bored me to death. However, when I had to do a presentation about it, I had to read (or at least, skim) the book in order to do well on it. I ended up passing this portion by the skin of my teeth. Since then, I have almost always strived to do my best with what I could. This has led me to try my best to achieve what I can in many areas of my life, including my job and my relationships with others.
  3. Never stop caring about other people.—I wrote once, as my Facebook status, that we become monsters when we stop caring about others. I have seen that monstrous part come out in even myself when I stop caring about other people. Too many times, I have seen or heard about it coming out in others who stopped caring, even if only for a moment, too.  Thus, I aim to never stop caring about others, as much as possible.  Yes, sometimes constantly caring about those around me can be exhausting and even overwhelming, but I think it is still worth it.  When you genuinely care about others, you can change lives for the better.  When I try to encourage those who need it, I find that they are more joyful and have at least some of the needed boost to their day.  We care about others mainly by assigning value to them.  One way you can do this today is to write a heartfelt note to someone who has made a positive difference in your life or by verbally and sincerely thanking them.  Sometimes we all need the encouragement that our good deeds and efforts matter in this life, and that someone cares about us.  My favorite aunt has always striven to care about others.  I have written in a previous post, that when she offered to host us during our trip to see her and the rest of our relatives, she became very ill. Despite this, she continued doing what she could to care for and accommodate us.  I aim to be like her in caring about the people in my life.
  4. Live with passion.—For many years, I have lived with little passion. Sure, I had, what I would call, “bursts of passion,” but they never lasted more than a couple of weeks. However, since getting my current job and being part of my current church, I have had renewed passion for life. I aim to be passionate about everything I do.  For instance, at my job, I do not just want to do enough to “get by,” but I want to do my very best, with a positive and energetic attitude. Yes, sometimes I will fail at this, but this is my goal every single day.  I do not want to delve into a depressed or passionless life anymore, but I want to do everything with meaning, purpose, and/or joy.  My friend Veronica* (*=not her real name) lives with passion.  Not only does she aim to care about those around her, but she aims to live with passion and joy in everything she does.  Her smile and her infectiously joyful spirit are the attitudes I want to possess also for myself.
  5. Look for the best in people always.—With all the negativity in the world and in social media, I want to “upset the apple cart,” so to speak, by looking for the best in humanity, rather than dwelling on the worst in humanity. I aim to watch more positive videos, both on YouTube and elsewhere, about people doing kind and uplifting things for others. I aim to try to remove myself from conversations where people are speaking negatively and gossiping about someone else.  In my aim to encourage people, I want to be able to look to the best in the people who I surround myself, and help the light in them shine and grow.

These are the five convictions I strive to live by, not only to be successful in my own life, but, more importantly, to share the love I found in God and others, with those in my life.  We should always be authentic, so we can give others the chance to love us for who we really are, not just an image we project to outsiders.  We should always do our best so we can be satisfied that we did all we could in life, and have no regrets about what we did or didn’t do.  We should care about others, so that we can make a positive difference in this world and bring love to others.  We should live with passion, so that we always have hope and purpose in our lives.  Finally, when we look for the best in others, we can help the sunshine in them grow and thrive.

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.