My life Epiphanies

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, an epiphany is either “an appearance or manifestation especially of a divine being,” or “a usually sudden manifestation or perception of the essential nature or meaning of something.”  In this blog post, the latter meaning will be discussed.  Though I have never had God appear to me physically, I believe God and others have been instrumental in me having several epiphanies (the latter meaning) in my life.  These epiphanies have been instrumental in shaping me and helping me become a better person than I was before.

Epiphany #1- Have compassion and understanding on those with differing beliefs, both religiously and in other areas.  

I had this epiphany about fifteen years ago thanks to one of my favorite authors, Dave Burchett, who wrote the book, When Bad Christians Happen to Good People. Before I read his book, I had rigid views on almost everything. One of the weirder beliefs I had had was that people who really liked a certain singing group, but hated my favorite group, were immoral and intolerant people.  I also thought that people who didn’t believe in a God were likewise rude and immoral.  However, when I read that book, I began to have compassion and understanding for those two groups of people.  I realized that I couldn’t, in good faith, force people to have the same beliefs about anything that I had.  I also learned that music is more a matter of taste, and not always about morality.  I no longer cared about the group that I liked, or about whether people liked the other group or not.  I also learned from that book that some people who profess my faith in God don’t really do what they believe, and that, understandably, a lot of people have been turned away from any type of religion.  Moreover, I discovered some atheists who are some of the kindest and most non-judgmental people I have ever met.

Epiphany #2—Don’t hold grudges. Forgive others as you have been forgiven, and be free at last.

This epiphany occurred to me after discussing a personal issue with one of my pastors at my current church.  I had had trouble forgiving someone and it had gotten to the point where I was coming to church with a bad attitude towards everybody and everything.  Sometime after the discussion, I discovered my excuse for holding grudges for this person and others didn’t really hold water.  I had mainly held grudges as a form of vengeance against the party that hurt me, so that they would “feel” my pain and regret their choices. However, I realized what had really happened was I was hurting myself and my relationships with others not even involved in the incident or incidents, and that the guilty party either didn’t care or didn’t know the pain and bitterness I held inside against them!  So, when I forgave this person, the burden of vengeance, anger, and hatred melted away from me.  I was free at last, and today I am much happier, both with this person and those around me, than I ever was before!

Epiphany #3-Don’t worry so much. You cannot control everything, and that’s OK.

This epiphany occurred to me just several days ago, after I had just experienced a stressful week before. I got this epiphany after reading the book, Overcoming Fear, Worry, and Anxiety by Elyse Fitzpatrick. People had told me numerous times in my life (even before I became a Christian) not to worry and stress so much, and this is something that I am still learning, despite this epiphany. However, this time I think it is really starting to sink in more.  My type of worry, I must confess, is a defense mechanism for the helplessness I feel because I can’t control my circumstances. I hate uncertainty and not being able to  plan for my future because I am afraid that if I am unprepared I will totally lose control of my emotions and/or well-being. In other words, I won’t cope well with the situation.  However, I realized that no fallible human being can really control their circumstances—that some things are just out of our hands. For instance, there is no way to anticipate when exactly you or a loved one will get sick and/or die, or if there will be traffic accident that will make you late to work.  However, when suffering and trials come, I learned that God will always use that situation to teach me something about myself or others and that He will be with me through it all.  Whether you believe in God or not, you can always learn something from the sufferings of your life, which lessons can be used to make you a better and stronger person.  I realized that even in the unexpected or horrible circumstances of life, that there is always hope and resources that will be given to me that I can use to cope better with the resulting pain and trauma.  For instance, when I have worried about not getting some part of my area straightened on time, I have found that one of these three things usually happen:  a.) I can ask for help from the managers or other associates.  b) Most likely, other people will also not be able to finish their areas, either   c) I will really be able to finish, and that I worried for nothing!

 

All these epiphanies have shaped my life and character in some way.  Having compassion on those with differing beliefs has helped me widen my circle of friends and helped me understand and love the people around me better.  Forgiving others has helped me become less guarded and carry less long-term anger at others.  Learning not to worry so much and letting go of my need to control has freed me from the crippling effects of anxiety and depression and has helped me become more confident in myself and in those around me.  What epiphanies have you had in your life?  What lessons have you learned recently? Please feel free to share in the comments.

 

Source: https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/epiphany

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Harms of Envy

I used to be envious of my brother because I felt he was the best in almost everything, while I always fell short of my goals.  After I got over my envy of my brother, I began to be envious of people who were happily married and had children, because I wanted a family for myself, but I have remained single for a very long time. I didn’t wish them any harm or anything, but I didn’t really like celebrating with them either.

However, over the past five years, I have discovered that all the time that I spent being jealous could have been used to better myself and to focus more on the mission that God had called me to accomplish. I strived to stop playing the comparison game.  I became more content with where God has placed me. I learned how to value and to use the gifts that God had already given to me, instead of looking to have what He didn’t give me.

Simply put; envy does more harm than good, not only in our relationships to each other, but also for our own personal growth as people.  Here is why I believe envy is harmful :

  1. Envy creates strife and separates people.—During my devotional time, in the Book of 1 Kings (the Bible), I have been reading about the relationship between King (at the time) Saul and David, who would eventually replace him as king of Israel. Saul initially becomes envious of David because of how much more successful and popular he was becoming compared to Saul.  Instead of reflecting on why he was jealous or what he could do to change, Saul becomes more and more enraged at David, even plotting to kill him on more than one occasion.  Because Saul’s son, Jonathan, becomes friends with David, Saul wants to kill him too! In my own life, I have witnessed envy creating strife more times than I dare to recall. For instance, I know people that are so envious of one of my friends that they a.) only talk to complain about work-related things  or b.) actually go out of their way to try to hurt my friend.  Also, when I was envious of my brother, I didn’t really take the time to get to know his struggles and hard work he had to put in to get to where he is today.  Envy creates strife and can separate even family.
  2. Envy stunts our growth as people.—When we are jealous of someone, our emotional and spiritual growth as people gets stunted. For instance, if someone were jealous of me for accomplishing more things than they did at my job, this person would not be open to learning how I did what I did, or learning about how much sacrifice and hard work it took for me to get there. All they would be interested in is dragging me down or to seethe in their anger and pain of not getting the results they wanted.  This is what happens when any one of us, including me, are jealous of someone else—whether it be envy of their possessions, abilities, or other blessings or gifts that they have, but we don’t.  When we are envious, not only does our learning stop, but envy also hurts our ability to change for the better.  For example, because Saul was so obsessed with bringing down David, he failed to look in the mirror and begin the hard work of not being so rash and impatient with God and others.
  3. Envy is a waste of time.—For the past five years, I have learned more and more how much of a waste of time being envious of someone really is. Speaking from my own experiences, I wish the time that I had spent being jealous of others would have been better used to bless others and improve myself.  Envy consumes you with bad thoughts of the other person. Sometimes, this consumption is so complete that there isn’t any room for anything else.  For instance, King Saul was so envious of David that his life was consumed with chasing David and wanting him dead. What a waste of time!

We would serve others and ourselves better if we could get rid of any trace of envy we have for another.  Envy is often the start of such vices as prejudice, murder, and other violent acts. Envy is harmful because it separates people, including family and close friends, stunts our growth as people, and is a colossal waste of time.  Who are you tempted to envy?  Let us instead try to learn from the people we envy and be content with what we are given, because everyone can contribute something valuable to this world.

The Heart of the Matter

POST #200! (Yay! )

If there is no heartbeat in someone, they die.  The heart is one of the most vital organs in our body. Similarly, our spiritual hearts reflect who we are as people, and also the motivation behind our actions. Without a spiritual heart, or passion, for anything, we also die.  There have been some people who, in their minds, have reached such a pinnacle of success that they have nothing to live for anymore.  Finding your own heart—including the motivations behind your actions, purpose in life, and what you are passionate about—can help sustain you in times of trial and pain, helps motivate you to keep on going in life, and helps give you direction in life.  Finding someone else’s heart—including their passions in life, motivation behind their actions, and their life stories—can help us to cultivate a deeper understanding and appreciation of that person, and often leads to us loving and respecting that person better.  These are the lessons I have learned by both personal experience and through what others have taught me, about both finding your own heart and finding others’ hearts:

  1. How to find your own heart:

During the years when I was growing up and felt aimless in life, I only saw glimpses of what my heart was. However, after God revealed Himself to me and during the past ten years, more and more of my own heart has been exposed to me.  One of the things that had helped me find my own heart was to ask myself, “Why do I do what I do?”  I found that when people don’t ask themselves that vital question, either consciously or subconsciously, that they tend to drift aimlessly in life and become depressed and sometimes even feel hopeless and adrift. I believe that if people asked themselves “Why am I doing “ X” ?” (substitute X for an activity) more often,  they would not waste as much time doing things that don’t benefit them or others.  They would also see their heart and motivation, and be more apt to make any needed adjustments.  For instance, many people who are working do so solely for the paycheck and nothing more. However, many people don’t also think consciously about why they are doing what they do. If work becomes unbearable for them, they may ask these questions, but it is often too late for them to salvage their jobs and make a greater impact for themselves and others.

I would also ask myself the question, “What gives me the most joy?” Do not only think of your hobbies and what you do for fun, but also what stirs your soul.  For instance, seeing and hearing about children being abused deeply upsets and angers me, but being able to speak encouragement into the lives of adults who were abused as children has given me much joy.  Another thing that gives me joy is to be able to share God’s love with others and seeing people’s faces just light up. Seeing people happy and content does not give me joy solely for my sake, but for theirs as well.  It gives me great joy and pleasure to see that others can experience God’s love too, especially for those who had previously not really experienced or known about that depth of love before. Think about what gives you the most joy, and cultivate that into your heart and passions.

Another way to find your own heart is to write out a life purpose statement and some life goals.  For instance, my purpose in life can be summed up in this way: “To glorify God and to share His love to others.”  Your life purpose statement should be no longer than a couple of sentences.  Then, write out some goals that will cater to your life’s purpose.  In my case, some of my life goals would be: a.) To share the love of God with loved ones and my colleagues at work in tangible ways. b) Meditate and learn something new about God every day, and apply these lessons to my life c.) Not to give up if I fail to live my purpose, but be willing to humble myself and try again.  d) Garner the support of people that love God the way I do, so we can support each other and encourage each other, especially when times get tough. Writing out your life purpose and goals will help make them real and tangible to you. It will also help give you direction and tangible actions you can take in order to live up to your purpose. Furthermore, writing your life purpose and goals will help you stay motivated and can remind you of your importance and value in this society.

  1. How to find others’ hearts:

 

Before you can find what drives a person and what their heart is, you need to develop a genuine relationship with them.  If you purposely intrude on someone solely for finding what their heart is or to manipulate them, you will never find it because they will see through your pretenses before you even find them out.  You need to show a genuine care and concern for their well-being, more so than your own.  You need to be willing to spend time and invest in that person.  You need to be sure you never betray them, because if you do, they will most likely not reveal anything deep and personal about themselves to you ever again!  For instance, if someone betrays me, I will tend to hide certain personal things about myself because I don’t want them to use what they know about my heart against me and deliver a near-devastating blow to my soul. I would not even mention this blog to them!

 

However, if someone proves themselves trustworthy, their friends will most likely be able to slowly reveal their heart to them, and this trustworthy person will most likely (because he or she is a person of integrity) help their heart grow and flourish. This trustworthy person will start by asking pertinent questions about what drives their friend or friends, and they will show genuine love and care for their friends. The trustworthy person will respect their friends ‘(and loved ones’) boundaries at all times, and will let the friend or loved one share their heart as they are ready.  For instance, if a loved one is addicted to something, the trustworthy friend will not only help the loved one out of the addiction, but will also give them words of support and encouragement.  For instance, if the trustworthy person finds out that the loved one has the addiction because they (loved one) are lonely and needs something to fill them, the trustworthy person can keep them company and also encourage the loved one to seek out new friends that will also support the loved one.

 

This is what I learned about both finding your own heart and finding others’ hearts.  When you have a window into your own soul, you will be able to help it flourish and grow. You will be more content and joyful as a person, and you will feel that you have value in this world. Similarly, when you know someone else’s heart, you can make a world of difference in their lives by helping them find joy and purpose in their lives. While your physical heart keeps your body alive, your spiritual heart keeps your soul alive. May your heart flourish and find much joy!

Soul Healer

written : 5/11/2018

dedicated to  J, Erica*, Veronica*,  Kelly*, Alice*, Holly*, Anna*, and my managers Chris* and Hope*  (*= all are pseudonyms) 

I was alone and in pain

I was also going insane

I felt so much shame

And I was in despair

 

I felt so unworthy of love and care

I dared never to lay my soul bare

Because I knew they’d condemn me

And all I came to be

 

But then, as water

That refreshes the soul,

On a hot, dry day

You came to me

 

You affirmed me with your love

The one from up above

You gave me a reason to hope

When I was on my last rope

 

Now I want to always love you

And bare my soul to you

Because you saved my life

And showed me God’s love

How to Find Peace After Betrayal

Disclaimer: Absolutely no disparaging comments about anyone or your comment will be deleted! Also, mild triggers for talk about abuse and bullying.

This is a blog post that I wish I wouldn’t have to write, much less, experience, time and time again in my own life.  I wish people would never have to experience betrayal in their lives. However, even my Savior did, when Judas betrayed Him for a paltry sum of money.

I know many of you have also experienced betrayal—whether it be by a family member, a close friend, a trusted person who held authority over you, or any number or varieties of people.  Many of you are, or were, very angry and hurt by their betrayal.  You may have been blindsided by it, as you did not expect this of them, or you did, but didn’t think it would be you. Whatever the case may have been, I know it can be absolutely very painful and difficult to pick up the pieces and live fully again.  However, we must not let the betrayers in our lives control us or keep us from accomplishing our dreams. Here is what I have learned about how to find peace after betrayal:

First of all, it is absolutely essential that you have or build some type of support for yourself.  –You will not heal very well or quickly if you have to deal with the aftermath of betrayal alone. This is especially true if you have just been abused and/or bullied by someone, and the wounds, whether it be physical and/or emotional, are still fresh.  If you or a loved one has experienced some type of criminal abuse, do not be afraid to report it to the proper authorities—police, attorneys, medical personnel such as therapists and doctors, etc.  The betrayer, as well as their supports, may dissuade, or even threaten you if you report the abuse. Do not be afraid of their threats!.  I know it may be easier said than done, but if you have the power to stop their cycle of abuse, even to the risk of your own life, to me (and to many others), you are a hero or heroine!  This will help others who may be also suffering at your abuser’s hands, and will help the abuser to repent of their actions and stop hurting others.  Besides reporting the abuse, make sure you seek out support for yourself to help you heal from the trauma of the betrayal and/or abuse.  This may include trusted family members, loved ones, friends, and therapists and clergy.  Make sure they will support you and will not either vouch for the abuser or play the devil’s advocate and blame the betrayal and/or abuse on you.  If access to these supports seems nonexistent for you, there are many online groups that support and validate people who have been betrayed and abused by others.  Please contact me privately if you would like to know a few of them that I’m a part.

Second of all, make sure you are having adequate self-care. –When I am betrayed by someone who I thought was trustworthy, I often delve into depression and self-pity. It is also very difficult for me to eat and sleep well, or even be kind to myself, as I tend to blame myself for the betrayal.  I think in order to get out of this pit, one needs a.) adequate outside supports and  b.) good self-talk. Good self-care includes educating yourself on the effects of abuse and betrayal and telling yourself that it is NOT your fault. Because when someone else abuses or betrays you, it is never your fault! That the person even schemed and thought to attack you means that they could have controlled their thoughts and temptations, but they chose not to!  Also, try to be kind to yourself by engaging in hobbies that you love to do. Of course, do not do anything that is against the law or that is not true to your moral beliefs. Doing something you love, should help you find peace and purpose in your life again, and not be held back by the betrayal you experienced.

Also, don’t let your experience of betrayal diminish your love for others. –At least for me, I have found that after I have just been betrayed by someone, I tend to snap at others more easily or even become paranoid of everyone.  I don’t know if this is normal or not, but I have learned that I should not let my experiences color my perceptions of everyone.  Not everyone is like your betrayer, even if it may seem that way.  Remember the betrayer is the one responsible for his or her actions, not everyone else, especially if they had nothing to do with the incident.

Also, continue to cultivate positivity to the other people who didn’t betray you.  Do not hold back your love or kindness from them because of the actions of someone else.  First of all, it is not fair to take out your anger and hurt on them because they did nothing wrong. Second of all, you will ruin the good relationships you have with them.  If you are angry and hurt at someone for betraying you, try to only focus your anger on them, not on everyone else.

Finally, forgive your betrayer.—This does not mean you have to reunite and reconcile with them. I read somewhere that it takes two to reconcile, but only one to forgive.  How true that is!  For instance, even though Jesus forgave the people that cruelly beat and taunted Him, He did not necessarily reconcile with all of them.  Also, though I am willing to forgive people for their betrayal, it does not mean that I will give up my trust so easily to them the next time.  You don’t even have to give your trust to the betrayer ever again.  Not only is it not wise to do that, but, if they haven’t earned back your trust, I learned that you are setting yourself up for more betrayals and heartache, as they will most likely take advantage of you again!

Forgiveness does mean letting go of your anger and bitterness towards them.  This is not for their benefit. I repeat; this is not for the betrayer’s benefit, but for yours!  When you let go of your anger and bitterness against your betrayer, you are, in effect, saying that you will not be tied down to or controlled by them.  You are saying that you let go of the need for avenging yourself, and that you will trust the proper authorities, whether it be police, the law, or God, to make this situation “right”.  You are saying that you move on with your life, and you will not let the betrayer tie you down to pain, anger, or bitterness.  You are saying that your love is stronger than their hate against you!

Betrayal is very painful and difficult to go through, but when one comes out of it and begins to heal, I found that inside of that person comes a very strong, determined, and compassionate person that will shine like the sun and fly like a butterfly.

 

image courtesy of: www.LumoProject.com.

To Those On Their Last Rope

Disclaimer: May trigger—mentions issues surrounding depression, self-harm, bullying, and suicide.

Intro:  Many people I know around me are struggling, not only physically, but emotionally as well.  As you may know, I have struggled with depression with many years, and I just wanted to share the hope I found with them—and with anyone here, reading this that may be struggling as well, that there is hope.  If you are feeling strongly suicidal or need someone right away to talk to, please call this number: 1-800-273-8255. It’s free and there are trained professionals that can help you through this tough time, so you never have to be alone.

_________________________________________________________________________________________________

Dear Friend,

I see that you have been struggling so much lately.  You may wonder through your daily routine, “ Is this life really worth it? “ You wonder if your suffering, your pain, will ever end.  You wonder if anyone really cares about you—or each other– for that matter.  You may not wonder these questions out loud, but subconsciously, you do.

I sometimes wonder these same things.

When I was in my sophomore year of high school, the pain was sometimes so great, I wondered if I had the strength to go on in life. I considered (more than once) a way to end my own life.  . In one of my diary entries from that time, 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 also see that you are emotionally dying.  The spark, that smile, that I once saw, is now faded.  You seem really stressed and broken inside—like I was when I was in my sophomore year of high school.  I know you now see joy in my spirit, and a bounce in my walk. You also may think that “everyone likes me.” However, know that this was not always the case.

When I was in school, I struggled with being bullied, almost on a constant basis.  People would mock my way of dress, my hairstyle, and even how I looked.  This almost drove me to suicide, several times in my life.

Because of my history of being bullied, and being regularly excluded by my peers, I never really like I “fit in.”  I felt that in order to be part of any group, I had to beg. Then, maybe someone would feel sorry for me, and hang out with me for a while. That would, of course, never last for too long.

Then, in high school, I had an instructor that basically made me feel like I was worthless and would never amount to much in my life. I had almost no friends that could uplift and encourage me during that tough time, and this was before I knew about God’s love and presence in my life. I didn’t feel like I could talk to my family because I had assumed that they would not be able to really relate to my problems. Also, I had felt hopeless that I would find anyone around me who would truly accept who I was, inside and out. I didn’t think anyone would be able to really love me, especially if they really knew who I was inside.

Sometimes, I hear that you are being mocked and bullied by those around you too, and for that I am sorry.  I wish I could do more than just offer an encouraging word to you. I wish your bullies would know how much damage they are inflicting against your soul and your Creator as well, and repent of (i.e..stop) their bullying behaviors.

Know though that you are a valuable creation.  No one in the world is exactly like you (even if you have an identical twin!), and no one can touch the world in exactly the way you do!  Sometimes, I know you feel that you can’t do much positive, or live a legacy worth living.  However, that is the depression speaking, and it is lying!  Even if you are bed bound, you still can make an impact by greeting people who visit you with a cheerful and positive attitude, despite your pain and suffering. This will then make people look inside themselves, and say, “ Even with all the stuff that I’ve been through, I am grateful that even if I become bedbound, that I could make someone else smile!”

Also, reach out and get the help you need. You are NOT weak for asking for or needing help. On the contrary, depression is often a sign that you have tried to be strong too long. Know that you are not alone in your struggles. I sometimes still struggle too, but I know that there is hope for me.

I find that hope in a relationship with God and knowing that I am still able to make an impact on this world. It’s never too late to do something positive with your life—as long as you are still here!

So, what happened to me since high school?

I continued to struggle, off and on, with depression and suicidal thoughts, through my early twenties, though it was less than before I knew God’s love.

Then, about twelve years ago, I found a church that embraced me, and some friends who were willing to support and love me through the long haul. I am still in contact with some of them today.  I am eternally grateful that God brought me to that church.  I explored my passions for helping others and also began to write more often.

About two years ago, one of my managers, Chris* (NOT his real name), interviewed me for a position at my current job.  This position I still hold to this day.  Then, about a year ago, God brought me to another church, which has shown me how to love others, at a deeper level than I have ever known before.  Both, through my current job and my church, I have found a joy and love that I had only dreamed of before.

It may take a long time to realize your dreams, but it is never too late to start somewhere. Don’t give up. There is always a light at the end of the tunnel.

Sincerely,

Patricia

My Dreams

(written on : April 29, 2018)

Dedicated to all my co-workers and managers at my current job

I dreamed of the day

When I would be here

And leave a mark

Lasting until my dying day

 

I dreamed of the day

When I would be loved and valued

For not just the person I could be

But for the person they already see

 

And now my dreams have come true

God has worked in and through me

Now I can see

A bright future coming up ahead of me

 

So, I dream of the day

When the Love and Joy I found

Will become real to you

And fill you too