Open Letters On Forgiveness

Written on    1/12-13/2018

Dear Anyone Who Has Hurt or Offended Me,

For some of you, I have held on to my anger and bitterness towards you for a long time. God convicted me today and told me to let it go. And I intend to do just that. If you had offended me, what you did was probably not right and I am absolutely not excusing your behavior. However, my response to you was not right either, and for that I am sorry. I am sorry that lashing out in kind and wishing evil on some of you. I am sorry that I hadn’t reached out to you in reconciliation and mercy earlier mainly because of my stupidity and pride that got in the way. I understand if you never are able to forgive me for this or don’t want to reconcile. However, if you would like to, I want both of us to strive not to hurt one another deeply again, and I want you to know that I have your back now and wish only the best for you.

Sincerely,

Patricia

 

Dear Anyone Who Has Been Hurt By Me or Others,

 

Hurt by others: If you have been hurt by another person (other than me), I am sorry. If you were ever abused by someone who was supposed to love and/or protect you (such as a family member), I am deeply sorry, and please take as much time as you need to process everything and heal.

 

However, for those hurt by someone who has not severely scarred you (though at times it may feel like it, I know.)I have these three words for you: Let. It. Go. Don’t try to let it go for their sake, but for yours!

 

What criteria I personally use now to determine if another’s hurt is worth holding on to or addressing in any major way:

1)            Are they hurting God—meaning are they blasphemous or against directives that He laid out in the Bible?

2)            Are they hurting my family or other loved ones?

3)            Are the issues/offenses at hand morally and/or eternally significant for their sake (i.e Are they committing a serious sin)?

 

If two to three questions’ answers are “Yes,” then it is worth getting concerned about, but if not, I just try to let it go. Even if the answers to these three questions are “Yeses,” I still try to speak the truth to them in a loving, but firm manner.

For instance, though, some people hold a grudge against another simply because someone did not say “Hello” in return to them. Yes, it can be upsetting if we are not acknowledged and it is rude for them not to acknowledge you, but is this worth remembering or getting so upset about? Also, someone not saying “Hello” to you or ignoring you, assuming it’s not family, will not hurt your loved ones! Also, no one will go to jail or get kicked out of anything simply for not acknowledging you, or at least it would be absurd if they did!

Let it go.

I understand why someone would hold a grudge against someone else though. I confess that I once was a grudge-holder, and then wondered why it was so difficult for me to grow spiritually and emotionally! I realized I held grudges for so long because I thought that by holding on to the hurt and anger and giving the offender or offenders the harsh, silent treatment, I was, in essence, “punishing” them for the hurt they caused me.  However, what often occurred was that the offender either didn’t care about the incident or the hurt they had caused me, or they didn’t even know how much they had hurt me! In essence, God gave me this epiphany one day that by holding on to these grudges, I was only hurting myself and the loved ones that hadn’t hurt me at all!

When I finally let go of my hurt and anger that some others had caused me, it was like a burden was lifted off me.  I no longer had to exert angry and hate-filled energy for that people and anyone associated with them and the incident anymore.  Most of all, I felt peace. I was open to reconciliation, and I was free of the bind of emotional pain that the offender or offenders had over me.

Let it go.

For your sake and for those that love you.

For those I hurt:

I do apologize and am so sorry that I hurt you. I don’t ask for forgiveness only for my sake, but also for yours. I want you to be free of the anger and hurt that I caused and that comes from bitterness and resentment. I will do anything in my power to repair the damage that I caused, and I will strive never to repeat the offense again.  Know you are valued and loved by God and by me. I only want the best for you. And I know that is what God wants for you as well.

Sincerely,

Patricia

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Letter to My 13 Year Old Self

Dear 13 Year Old Me,

I know things have been difficult for you lately, and you feel that there is little meaning and purpose to your life.  You feel that no one would want to get to know the Real You if they found out all about you.  You feel that in order to be truly loved and accepted, you would have to be reasonably thin and look like a model in the magazines and in the movies. In other words, you have to not only be perfectly sociable, you have to look the part too, if there ever was such a thing.  Consequently, because you don’t measure up to these standards, you think that is why you don’t have any friends—or any confidence in who you are and what you are becoming.

You have a lot of other stressors too.  You just moved to a new house, and will move to a new school soon. The old house hasn’t sold yet, so your parents are busy with that and have less time for you.  You also feel the need to keep your grades up because you don’t want your parents to get upset at you and you want to be able to compete with the intelligence of your very smart younger brother.

You want to give up, or at least wish all these problems away. You want to run away from them because life is becoming increasingly unbearable for you.  Even in the midst of all the stress and anguish that you are facing, let me tell you, there is still hope for you.  Don’t you give up on life! I know it is very tough right now, but things WILL get better. I promise.

In fact, three years later, you will meet the Greatest Friend there is—Jesus Christ!  He won’t give a care how you look like or how sociable you are.  He will accept you. Just. as. you. are. He will change your life for the better. No longer will you have to worry about being loved and accepted by your peers and other people in your life, but you will be more and more secure in who you are because Jesus loves you!

You won’t have to worry about competing with your brother for grades. Heck, grades won’t even matter nine or ten years from now! You will even have a full-time job, though it will be different from what you imagine it to be, and even though it will be tough to get at first. God will make you and your brother successful in your own ways, so you won’t worry about competing with him anymore.

Moreover, you won’t have to rely on your parents alone or even your brother for affection and attention, because God will provide you with many friends. Though God will always be your Ultimate Friend, these other friends will help you see the goodness and love of God ever more clearly. Best of all, you will be able to open up about yourself more without fear of rejection or criticism because it won’t bother you anymore. God will always be with you, and He is the One that will ultimately matter the most to you.

Finally, don’t give up because God will do something great and wonderful in your life if you let Him. Your love for everyone and everything (except, of course, the devil and the evil in this world) will overflow to others. You will experience joy in your life like never before!

Keep going! God will help you through this!

Love,

Patricia (in her 30s)

#Me too- Myths about sexuality and solutions

DISCLAIMER: Triggers for mentions of sex and sexual violence and abuse. No disparaging comments, please! Thanks.

By now, you probably have heard of the #metoo movement, where women are taking aim at a societal culture that has devalued and often treated them as little more than sexual entities. It is a movement where some women–and probably men too– are sharing their stories about being sexually abused or harassed by people who devalued and/or wanted to use them as little more than sexual playthings.  I join and support these brave men and women who are coming forward with their painful and difficult stories in order to make sure this does not happen to anyone else ever again, and to change this culture to one that values all people as divine image-bearers and the preciousness that they are.

I think one of the main reasons why there are so many people doing sexually abusive and demeaning things to others, is because people have long bought into some or all of these following myths about sexuality:

  • Myth: You need to have a significant other to be truly happy and fulfilled in life. -Many single people believe or have believed (note to self: guilty as charged) the lie that if they just had a girlfriend or boyfriend, and eventually get married, life would be bliss and they would have no loneliness issues anymore. Married people or people in relationships may also buy into a form of this lie by trying to change their partner into their idealized image of who they think they should be.  Truth: You can just be as happy or happier single. I have been single for a VERY long time, and I have never been happier! Though a lot has changed, many parents still think if their children remain single, they will not be happy or fulfilled (what I dub, the “spinster theory”). I am living proof that this does not have to be the case!  I am not saying that people in relationships are never happy. However, it is not because of the relationship alone that makes someone happy or unhappy.
  • Myth: I need sex or a relationship to feel valued and/or powerful in life. Truth: Sex does not inherently make one feel “valued” or “powerful.” Think of how many women in the sex trafficking industry are treated–as less than animals! Maybe the people that hurt them feel more powerful, but not the day when they are held accountable for their evil actions they have perpetrated against these women! What really can help one feel more valued and powerful is what Jesus said in Matthew 20:27 (KJV)-“And whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant.” That is, whoever wants to feel more great and powerful, let him or her serve others. Doing good things for others not only makes you feel good,  but you also value people by helping others. However, it must be done with a sincere heart and a good attitude.
  • Myth: Children should hug their relatives to show respect for them. Another version of this myth is: “People should hug me/each other to show respect for me/them.” Truth: Children (and even adults) should not be required to hug or touch anyone!  Some children don’t hug because they feel squeamish about hugging, and some children even have had some unspoken trauma over the person they are “supposed to” hug. Their bodies should be respected and valued by not requiring this of them.  Also, there are other ways for people to show their appreciation and respect besides touch.  For instance, we can use our words to uplift and encourage someone, and there are only a few, if any, that would object that to that! Also,  we should teach children and others to thank people who do something good for them, and say “Please” if they want something, instead of just demanding that person give it to them.
  • Myth: “I need sex to get ahead in life or be successful. “Truth: No, you don’t. What one needs to get ahead in life is integrity, hard work, and compassion.  And even if you are not successful, remember your worth is not dependent on what you do!

Here are some ways we should support women and others who have been sexually harassed and/or abused

  1. Know it’s not just women who have been abused–A lot of men have been abused too. Think of the boys that have been abused by priests or their athletic coaches.
  2. Accept others’ “No” without complaining or arguing.–For instance, if someone doesn’t want to be touched, don’t try to argue with them about that in an attempt to force them to “want” to be touched.  Just accept that they don’t like touch. It’s probably not because you did something bad to them, but just a boundary they have for some people, or even everyone.
  3. If someone is attacking someone else sexually, stop the attacker if possible.– If your life is in danger or if the attacker has a weapon, this may not be such a good idea. In all other cases, however,  you can stop the attack by yelling very loudly, “STOP! STOP” and trying to get the perpetrator off the victim, or by saying nothing but running to get help for the victim as soon as possible. A life could be saved!
  4. Let the abuse survivor know it’s not their fault, and that whatever they feel is valid.–Do not try to get the survivor to forgive their perpetrator. Yes, there is a time and place for forgiveness, but true forgiveness cannot be forced!  What the survivor needs right now is validation and the feeling that they are not “damaged goods” and that they are a valued part of society. Affirm and validate them.
  5. Don’t listen to or watch things that glorify the devaluation of people.–Music or movies that glorify using women as sexual objects should not be part of your media diet if you really want to support the #metoo movement. Similarly, watching pornographic movies or tv shows doesn’t get you in the right frame of mind to be able to look at others with dignity and value.  Resolve today to only feed your mind with media that values others.
  6. Support or pray for (if religious) organizations like International Justice Mission or A21, who help sexual abuse survivors reclaim their lives.–These, and many other organizations, help men and women who have survived abuse or sex trafficking reclaim their lives. Other organizations like RAINN help survivors as well.
  7. Teach the next generation proper boundaries and consent.–If you are a parent, teach your child or children proper boundaries and consent. Telling your child, “Keep your hands to yourself” when they touch someone without their permission, for instance, is a good way to start to teach them appropriate boundaries and consent. Also, telling them that if someone touches them inappropriately, they have a right to say something and stand up for themselves, is another good way to teach boundaries and consent and show you value their body and soul.

With many men and women bravely coming forward about their times of pain and heartache at the hands of people that devalued and demeaned them, hopefully the abuse will stop and the perpetrators will be held accountable for their actions.  However, we as a society must stop perpetuating a culture where people–men and women alike– are being devalued, and instead we must all strive to create a society where each person is treated as the valued, priceless treasure they are.

What I Learned From the Toughest Years of My Life

DISCLAIMER: Triggers for talk of eating disorders, abuse, and suicide.  Absolutely no disparaging comments about anyone, or your comment will be deleted! I will also put resources for anyone or a loved one you know that needs them. Remember, there is still hope as long as one is still alive!

 

On April 9, 1999, I wrote the following, a desperate cry from the depths of my soul: I feel dead without actually being killed. I hope I don’t die emotionally, but I am dying. I want to get better… […] If I could only find that zest, that greatness, life is supposed to hold. But where is it, at least in me?” This was a year before God took a hold of my heart, the year that my faith hero, Rachel Joy Scott and thirteen other lives were taken in the infamous mass shooting in Colorado.  This was also the year that I was verbally abused by a teacher, and he instilled a fear so great that it was fifteen years later before I was able to overcome it.  I don’t recall having any close friends at all at this time. I remember having a lot of tough classes too.

The years before that were not so much better. Three years earlier, I struggled with an eating disorder, which thankfully did not end up with me being in the hospital, though it almost got to that point.  I struggled with being bullied and verbally abused by a good number of my peers. I don’t recall being invited to any parties or gatherings with friends, unless I asked them first, and even then people didn’t really want to hang out with me.

During those years, from 1996-1999, were the toughest years of my life. Though I thought the pain would never end and I didn’t know if there was anything different for my life, I learned so much from these years of pain that I continue to strive to apply to my life today.  Here are some of them:

  1. Don’t reject someone just because they are different or needy.—I felt rejected by a lot of people during those years. Some people probably didn’t want to be with me, simply because I wasn’t “cool” to them. I didn’t have the right clothes, the right look. Some thought I was unkind because I was a bit depressed at times, without them taking the time to figure out what was wrong and invest in me.  Yes, there are times when it may not be safe to invest in someone at the time, but at least don’t assume they are “rude” or “arrogant” without learning their story. What if that “rude” (read: really depressed or angry) person’s parent or spouse recently died or is being abusive to them? What if they are going through things that they don’t tell you about because they assume you are too judgmental to caringly listen to them? You never know what another is going through. For instance, some people at my job may seem rude and abrasive at times, but then I find out that they are going through some things that are really traumatizing and/or difficult, and because of my experiences during those tough years that I mention, God helps me to listen with compassion, and I try to encourage and be a listening, supportive friend to them.
  2. Be careful of hurting someone with your words. It can ruin or hurt their very souls.–This is what happened to me when a teacher (I am not upset at him anymore….and if you are reading this today, I forgive you and I wish you the best) verbally abused me so badly that he instilled a fear that took me a long time to overcome. I think I internalized what he had said to me, and just gave up hope of ever becoming competent in the subject matter that he taught.  It wasn’t until my mentor, J, pushed me, that I was able to overcome this fear several years ago. I was also verbally teased and berated by my peers at school, who made me feel like an outcast and a pariah.  This is why when I say something out of anger that could really hurt someone, I apologize as quickly as possible.  This is also why I try to build up people, rather than tear them down. I want to improve other people’s lives and prevent them from ever having to suffer as I did with hurtful words.
  3. Pain and heartache may last awhile, but it doesn’t usually last forever—During those tough years, sometimes I thought so much that my emotional hurt and anguish I felt would never end, that I wanted to end it all. However, I am living proof that joy does come in the morning, as it says somewhere in the Bible. The next year, not only did the pain subside, but God also came into my life! Shortly after I graduated from college, I met one of my closest friends to this day. Almost two years ago, I started this blog, God’s Whisperings.  About a year ago, I became full-time at my current job. There is hope, as long as you are still alive. The pain may take some time to subside, but hang in there, so you don’t miss the hope, the love, and the joy you can have if you persevere in life and don’t give up.

These are major things that I learned during the toughest years of my life. I hope if you are going through a similarly tough time, whether it be dealing with a loss of a loved one (My grandmother died in 1996.),  dealing with abuse or bullying, struggling with an illness, whether it be physical or mental, or any other tough situation, that you will know that you are not alone.  I hope you will know that there is hope for your life, no matter how desperate or bleak it looks right now.  And I hope that you know that good will come out of this tough situation, even if you can’t see it right now. Don’t give up.

 

Resources for those dealing with some tough situations:

  • NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness)- This is an organization that helps people and their families dealing with mental health issues.  https://www.nami.org/Find-Support
  • Suicide Hotline- https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/
  • Grief counseling/support groups page—This is a webpage dedicated to helping those who have lost a loved one and are looking for support or ways to get through it. https://grief.com/group-resources/
  • RAINN (Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network)—This is a website dedicated to those who have been sexually abused and/or assaulted. There is a hotline one can call in a life-threatening situation or just for support.  https://www.rainn.org/
  • Jodie Blanco—She is an advocate who speaks on behalf of the bullied, both people who are currently being bullied, and adult survivors of bullying. There are some great resources for survivors themselves, parents, and teachers. There are even some resources on how bullying in schools can be stopped. http://www.jodeeblanco.com/

 

 

What I Learned From My Book of the Year

DISCLAIMER: I get no compensation from this review of sorts. All opinions are my own. However, if you would like to buy this book, please go to the recommendation page of my blog.

“You are what you think.” This is what the Bible says, and also what has been true in my life.  I have been struggling to combat negative thoughts almost all my life, whether it be anxiety-laden thoughts or more angry thoughts about someone I was upset with the previous day.  Then, one day, my Sunday School teacher (a.k.a : the pastor’s wife) talked about a book that she said in so many words, would change lives.  She said that the book would teach one how to think more positive, godly thoughts and revolutionize our attitude towards life in a positive way.  Because of my struggles with the thoughts that I have had most of my life, this book, “Loving God With All Your Mind” by Elizabeth George, seemed interesting to me. In fact, I was so interested in the book, all I could think about during the whole time my teacher was promoting the book was, I’ve got to get this book!” So, that same night, I got the book. Actually, I accidentally bought two and sold one of them to a friend of mine.

 

These are some of the things that I have learned from my favorite book of the year (Loving God With All Your Mind) and how these lessons can be applied to almost anyone’s lives, regardless of religious affiliation or belief:

  1. When you truly love someone, you will strive never to think negatively about that person.—Because of my tendency to think negatively about others when they had upset me or about how I “must” have offended them when someone was upset with me, this was truly a revolutionary concept. I discovered that one of the reasons that I hadn’t been getting along with certain people in my life was that I was constantly thinking the worst about them, and it stemmed from both an unforgiving heart and that they had hurt me before, and I failed to let go of the past. I think it was a defensive mechanism to prevent myself from getting hurt by those people again. The thing about love, though, is that it takes risks! C.S Lewis is even quoted as saying that if you love, you will get hurt. However, I believe even with the pain, love is totally worth it!  So, when I started to follow the advice of this book and countered my negative thoughts about these people with the positive characteristics I saw in them, I had a more balanced, more positive view of those people. Another thing I learned from “Loving God With All Your Mind” related to this lesson of not thinking negatively (or evil thoughts) about others is when a person seems upset with you, and you confront them and they say that nothing is wrong, you shouldn’t second guess them. I asked my Sunday School teacher (because the “lawyer” in my head had popped up!), “What if the person really is lying to you, and they say nothing is wrong, but you really have offended them.” She said something like, “Go with the lie. If someone is offended by you, it is their responsibility to let you know so you can do better next time, not yours.” To add to this, I am thinking also that if a person wants to hide behind pretense and games and does not want to let you know that they were offended by you, what kind of relationship is that anyway? Also, do you really want to continue being in a relationship based on lies? I don’t either.
  2. Look for the good in the trials of life.—Everyone goes through a rough patch at least once in their lifetime, some multiple times, or much of their lives. A lot of people, me included, sometimes think that life would be better without these trials, or rough patches, in our lives. However, Elizabeth George says in her book to look for the “gold” in our trials. For instance, during my elementary and part of my high school years, I was a victim of bullying by some of my peers.  When I was going through all that, I felt depressed, hopeless, and mentally exhausted of that life. However, these trials have taught me some valuable lessons on how NOT to live your life. A.) I learned how painful it feels to be bullied and ridiculed, both physically and verbally, through taunts and mockery, and strive never to inflict the same on another human being.   b) I learned how to value each person as God values me, in contrast to how some people treated me as an appendage or a burden.  c) I learned how to respond and not respond to these people.  Also, these bad experiences also led me to search for God and love and later ignited my passion to serve and love others.  Even in the worst of circumstances, there is always good that can come out of it, whether it be redemption in the situation itself or strengthening of our character
  3. Don’t dwell on past regrets or even successes, but move forward.—One of the more interesting things I learned from the book, “Loving God With All Your Mind,” is to forget the past. This means not dwelling on past failures or even successes. When we dwell on past failures, we tend to get stuck there, and this attitude prevents us from having the motivation to try new things or to try again. I know because this has happened to me.  More than ten years ago (probably closer to fifteen), I tried to learn the cash register at another job, but it was a disaster. I was so nervous and flustered that I did nothing right. This was still my first time learning it ever. For a long time, in my other jobs, I tried to avoid learning the register. Finally, recently, because I want to work up to be a department manager someday, I thought I should try to learn the register again. The first time in my current job, I was just shadowing another manager. However, the second time I was training, the person training me had me deal with customers! I was really nervous, but she said I did well for my first time with customers at that store! So, what I learned from this experience that others can apply to their lives too, is not to dwell on past regrets, but to move forward and try again.  Also, don’t dwell on past successes. For instance, if a person is so obsessed about their doctorate degree that he or she won’t lay it aside if necessary to get a job that they need because it is “too beneath” them, that is a bad thing. They should forget about their doctorate and do what is necessary to build success now and in the future.

This is just some of the things that I learned from my book of the year, “Loving God With All Your Mind.” When I follow the advice of this book, especially the lessons I outlined above, I have found my anxiety decrease dramatically and my general attitude being more joyful and more positive than before.  What are some lessons that you can carry with you from your favorite book? What is one book that changed your life that you recommend? Please discuss in the comments.

 

 

How I Overcame Depression This Year (and how you can too!)

On and off depressive episodes have been a part of my life since I was ten years old.  Sometimes, I cry for what seems like forever and a day, and sometimes I just become numb to everything around me, while hiding the turmoil inside. Though, when you meet me, I may seem happy and bubbly, for years it was only an unconscious façade to prevent myself from dealing with all the feeling of inferiority, self-hatred, and unfulfilled desires I had inside.

Then, some major changes in both my life situations and perspectives happened last year that fueled my motivation to beat depression once and for all this year. I still do struggle sometimes, but the depressive episodes are getting fewer and fewer. In my life situations, these four events fueled some major changes:

  1. My brother moved away.
  2. I got a new job.
  3. I went to a different church home after being at my previous one for over ten years!
  4. I started blogging more.

Here is what I learned from these events that have helped me overcome depression and enjoy some of the most joyful moments of my life. :

  1. I forgave those who hurt me.—There have been many people that have hurt me in the past. After several people hurt me emotionally a few months ago, I talked to one of the pastors at my church and he told me to “kill them with kindness” and directed me to the passages in the Bible where it said to “Love your enemies,” and “heap burning coals upon [my enemies’] head[s],” by loving and serving them anyway. It was in that moment that I realized what I wanted out of the people who hurt me and why it wasn’t working.—I wanted those that hurt me to stop hurting me! I had thought that by refusing to forgive them, I was, in essence, “punishing” them and giving them a taste of their own medicine that they deserved. However, in reality, what was happening was that I was hurting myself, and the people who hurt me not only continued to unconsciously hurt me because I was harboring so much anger and bitterness towards them, but also probably didn’t care or even know that they were still hurting me!  So, I believe God told me to “let go of the anger” because it really wasn’t accomplishing anything I wanted anyway, and I followed my pastor’s advice of intentionally doing good to them to help me heal from my anger and bitterness towards them.  Not only was I able to forgive these people, but our relationship was rekindled as well!
  2. I cultivated my dream of being a writer by blogging.—After starting and stopping blogging for about five years (I had accounts in other social media forms that are deactivated and I no longer use), I finally created this one in December 2015, but really made a commitment to regularly blog after getting my new job last year.  In addition to that, I joined a blogging group on Facebook, which has been a huge blessing and has helped me in many ways.  I am planning to monetize my blog sometime late this year or sometime next year, and/or do some affiliate work with this blog.  Writing has not only soothed me but has enabled me to communicate to others in ways I never thought possible.
  3. I woke up my motivation to learn about many different things in this world to increase my knowledge and so I could help and teach others.—This motivation and love of learning were really what woke up in me in two ways. First of all, my pastors’ sermons are always relevant to what I am going through and about the world around me. To apply what I learned, I felt that I could take what he taught and learn more about the topic. For instance, once he preached on creation, and that made me want to learn about how the world was created and about the different creatures that inhabit this planet.  Secondly, in the blogging group, I am a part, I have to read others’ blogs in order to get people to respond to mine and stay a good standing member of the group. This rule has helped me to learn about many different topics from fashion and travel to tips on how to better my blog! What are some things you can learn about the world around you?  What are some things that you can learn that your family and/or friends are interested in? I would try to learn about these things so you can better the world, make a difference in others’ lives, and also for your own enrichment.
  4. I embraced my spirituality more deeply.—As you may be able to tell from the title of the blog, “God’s Whisperings,” I take my Christianity quite seriously. However, before this past year, my devotions with God were lacking in quality and depth and I just didn’t feel as close to Him or to the people around me.  That changed when one of the pastors at my church did a bible study on doing devotions with God. Following his teachings, I was able to have a more effective and enjoyable time with God. Also, I tried to apply what I learned spiritually to other parts of my life too, such as my job and the friendships that I had with others, both in and out of work.
  5. I learned to enjoy and value my time more.—Before I got my current job, I felt that I was bored and had too much time on my hands. Now, with my free time being much more limited, I value my time more. I try to find something to enjoy in the moment I’m in now.  I no longer fear being bored or unfulfilled, because I now realize something always can be done, even if it is something as simple as prayer.  I learned that even if I have to spend some time with difficult people that something good still can be learned from them.  My pastor has repeatedly said, “Time is life.” I want to enjoy all the time that I have left because I can see all around me how precious life is and how limited time really is and how we should never waste it.
  6. I learned to love others more unconditionally.—As time goes on, I see all the pain and hurt that many people I know have to go through, often times on a daily basis. I also, unfortunately, see a lot of hate and indifference in this world, and I think that is tragic. So, because of this, I have resolved to strive to be different and counter all this hatred and anger with love and compassion.  I have tried (but still struggle with) being more patient with others, and putting others ahead of myself. I learned not only to forgive those that hurt me but to love people no matter what.
  7. I strived for excellence in everything I do.—It does me no good to just do something “to get by.” Nothing is more rewarding than to know that your hard work was all worth it. I strive for excellence in everything I do because it motivates me to constantly better myself and to learn new things.  Also, I have seen that when I do something with all my heart, that it is more rewarding than if I do something half-heartedly.
  8. I never gave up even though at times I wanted to, even though at times I failed in life, or even when obstacles had stood in my way.—There were a few times when I just wanted to give up. However, God didn’t allow me, and that has made all the difference. When I failed either morally or in other ways, yes I got upset, but then I picked myself up and tried again.  When obstacles stood in my way, there was always a way around it. When I wanted to give up, I thought of the negative consequences of actually giving up like not being able to accomplish my goals in life and not being able to be a positive influence in this world.  These things and often deliverance from a bad situation or situations gave me the motivation I needed to go on.

These are just some of the things I learned to do this year (and last) that helped me overcome my depression. How have you coped with or overcome depression, if you have struggled with it?  How has your life circumstances helped you to more effectively cope with life’s stresses? Please feel free to discuss in the comments.

Things I Learned in Childhood

I know I don’t talk much about my childhood. Although compared to many people, I had a pretty happy childhood, I did experience some trauma, mostly at the hands of peers my age. However, I did learn some valuable life lessons that I carry to this day when dealing with situations in my life.  These three things have shaped how I see the world, with some modifications, of course:

  1. Don’t avoid or neglect to do something just because you don’t like to do that thing. Do it efficiently and quickly the first time, so you don’t have to do more later. –I was talking to one of my managers last night, and he was amazed that I am consistently the first one to arrive at the straightening (even though I must admit, sometimes I hate it), and one of the first one to get things done. What I failed to tell him at the time, was why I do this.  This motivation actually stemmed from an incident in fourth or fifth grade when I consistently failed to do the assigned readings on the Gold Rush each day because I hated it. I mean, I hated the book! It was as boring as reading a how-to manual on assembling something one doesn’t care about.  However, the time came where I had to present something from that book.  I knew if I didn’t at least skim the book, that I would probably fail the whole class, and my parents would be absolutely furious at me for not even trying. I quickly gathered up as much information as I could from gleaning the book, and passed the project presentation by the skin of my teeth (i.e to my parents’ satisfaction).  From then on, I never tried to avoid doing something unpleasant if it was important just because I didn’t like doing said thing.  I might do it reluctantly or just to get it over with sometimes, but I will do it so I don’t have to stress out in the end.  During this past year as I have grown in my faith and love of Jesus Christ and others,  I have also tried to find something pleasurable in that unpleasant task and remind myself that I am to do said thing with excellence so that it pleases God and because it is the right thing to do.
  2. Kids can be cruel, but sometimes adults are too.  –I won’t name any names of course, but there were some teachers I observed that were mean to others and me. Maybe they weren’t always deliberately cruel, but sometimes would lash out in anger or because they were too stressed out to respond in a calm and validating way.  There were a few students that were particularly disruptive in their behavior. They did things like talk out of turn in class, spit on students, or fail to do their homework.  Some(not all) of the teachers that I observed didn’t even try to figure out why they behaved that way, and just started disciplining them and a few even mocked them a few times! None of the teachers, from what I observed, even took the time to actually care for and encourage these students very much when they behaved well. I was mocked by a few teachers from everything from my ethnicity to the way I dressed. I have seen this scenario repeated even in some of the places where I have worked, sadly enough.  These events from my childhood shaped my view in that now I get angry (even rageful sometimes) at people who mock others for things that can’t be controlled or that I think don’t matter in the face of eternity.  Sometimes, I must confess that I even thought (but not done) of taking vengeance on the perpetrators on behalf of the victims of the bullies.  These events have also motivated me to care more about people who are hurting, partly so that this scenario I witnessed in childhood does not repeat itself in any way again.
  3. Sometimes you must compromise to be able to successfully work with others, but never compromise your moral beliefs and values. –When I was maybe in fourth grade and below, I used to want everything done efficiently and my way, so much so that one of my peers told me in no uncertain terms that I was difficult to work with, and that comment cut to the heart and I remember it to this day.  Sometimes I hated working in groups, because a.) No one would choose to work with me, and I had to work with random people I didn’t know or care about. b.) Either the person ended up wanting to take over everything, leaving me with nothing to do, or I had to do everything because the person wasn’t willing to carry his or her weight.  However, these experiences of working in groups with different and random people from my classes prepared me to deal with people in the “real” world.  These experiences taught me that I had to compromise and allow for others’ ideas because it was not all about me and getting things done my way.  In the process, I may have even learned a thing or two and understood others’ perspectives better.  These experiences were valuable to help me cope with other associates and customers that I interact with today!

These are three things that I learned in childhood that I consistently apply to my life today.  These lessons have proved valuable in helping me be a more successful and well-adjusted person. What lessons have you learned in your childhood that you still carry today? How have they been applied to your life? Please feel free to discuss in the comments.

When We Have to Do Something: Caring for others in trouble

Earthquakes. Famines. Wars and rumors of wars.  Pestilences.  Heartache. Betrayal. Strife among people. Hatred and apathy. The problems in the world can seem very overwhelming at times. When we compound it with our own problems, they can seem unbearable! In fact, sometimes things can seem so insurmountable, we do and say nothing.  We are paralyzed with fear and anguish.  However, all these things can also propel us to right action, if we know how to help some of those in need.  Here are some situations either in the world around us or perhaps in our own lives that can seem “big” or “heavy,”  but we can redeem for the benefit of those involved in these problems. Here’s how YOU can personally make a difference:

The natural disasters in the world

  1. If you are spiritual, pray for those affected by the wildfires in California and surrounding areas, the hurricanes that have ravaged or are ravaging Texas, parts of Lousiana, Florida, Puerto Rico, and the Carribean Islands.  Pray that they will be provided with all that they need and for replacement of all that was lost. Pray for peace, comfort, and strength for those affected by the storms and their families that are concerned about them.
  2. Donate to a reputable organization that will give (and are giving) to those in need in the affected areas.  Some of them are: a.) Red Cross b.) Convoy of Hope c.) others. <—this article of organizations focuses on relief for Hurricane Harvey, but many of these help people affected by the other disasters as well.
  3. If you can, go to these affected areas and volunteer in the rebuilding and the relief efforts there.
  4. Spread awareness for these people being ravaged by these catastrophic events.  Let people know that these people are hurting and in need of help. That way, everyone will be aware of what’s happening and can also help in any way they are able.

Those affected by abuse and bullying

  1. Never ever blame the abuse or bullying survivor for the abuse. — Remind them that the abuse was not their fault.  Abuse is totally and will always be the abuser’s fault.  They are able to control their actions. No one can make someone else abuse another.
  2. Encourage the survivor of their inherent value.-– Many times abuse survivors have been made to feel worthless and useless, even unworthy of love.  If we want to be allies to these people, we remind them of their inherent pricelessness again!  This not only means that if they do something right, praise them, but also reminding and demonstrating to them they are still priceless and loved even if they make a mistake or sin. We can do this by helping them through their failures and doubts, and by striving to be committed to being there for them whenever they need us.
  3. Make sure to model good boundaries to them.— This means striving not to control or manipulate them in any way. Bullied and abused people usually (if not always) have had their boundaries or safety violated in some way, and their trust shattered.  Do not attempt to make decisions for them, unless you are already in a position of authority over them. Never use them to your own ends, otherwise, they will feel abused all over again, by you!  For instance, if you want to show affection to them, but they are hesitant to, respect them and restrain your wants and desires.  This is not about you! If you wrong them or make a mistake, sincerely apologize to them and commit to never repeating the same mistake again. Show you can be trusted.

EDIT: Many, but NOT all, people who have been abused also struggle with mental health issues because of the trauma. It is important to note though, that NOT all people with mental health problems have been abused. But if someone you know has been abused AND is struggling with mental illness, this is a GREAT resource: https://ashipofmyownmaking.wordpress.com/2017/09/12/10-ways-you-can-help-a-mentally-ill-friend/

Those affected by poverty

  1. Donate to reputable organizations such as the Red Cross and Unicef. –These organizations help by giving much-needed food and water to those in need.
  2. When you give to them, expect nothing back.–When you give to the poor, whether your time or finances, make sure it is with pure motives. Do not give to them, just to get a tax break, or to get something in return from them later.  Give because it is the right thing to do. Give because it gives you joy to see them happy and fulfilled. Do it for them, not yourself.
  3. Volunteer at a soup kitchen, homeless shelter or other organization—Look for opportunities in your area to help those affected by poverty.  One organization, for those living in the Chicagoland area, is called Feed My Starving Children. They pack food for people in need around the world. You can help by volunteering to help pack these meals. Their website is: https://volunteer.fmsc.org/register/
  4. Spread awareness about the issue of poverty.–Write about the struggles of people living in poverty, not to embarrass or shame them, but so that people will know how serious an issue it is, and also to dispel myths about people living in poverty. I know a lot of people who think that if you live in poverty, you must be lazy and/or uneducated. However, I have found through my own research and listening to others’ experiences, that this is often not the case, and the causes of poverty are more complicated that one thinks.

These are just some ways to care about people in need. What are some ways you can think of to help those in need? Encourage and love someone today. You can perhaps help save a life!

On Sacrifice

According to Merriam-Webster’s website, sacrifice is, “destruction or surrender of something for the sake of something else.” (Source: https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/sacrifice).  Lately, God has been teaching me a lot about sacrificing, not only for Him (though that to me is the most important) but for others around me as well. Dying to self and sacrificing for others is not a popular concept in this current society. Many advertisements and social media posts even discourage us from doing these things. Yes, we must be careful not to sacrifice to the wrong things or people, or else we may not only lose everything but gain next to nothing in the process.  However, that does not mean it is wise to only live for oneself. Only living for yourself will ultimately lead to destruction and death of your spirit.  Your heart will most likely become so hardened that you will really have little or nothing to give or share with others, or you won’t want to.  This is why sacrifice is so important.

What God has taught me about sacrifice in my own life: 

The three major changes that I have had to go through last year were these: A) Getting a new job  B) Having my sibling move away. C) Going to a new church.  God has taught me through these three events that I have had to let go of certain people and things to get to where He wanted me to be in life.  For instance, if I stayed at the job in the thrift store and not listen to the inner promptings (I believe, of God) to look elsewhere, I would have never been blessed with some of the things that I enjoy today. It’s not that I didn’t enjoy the job there or that the people in there were mean to me, but that God put in me the feeling that my time was up there and I needed to embrace a new challenge in my life.  In essence, God wanted me to sacrifice the security that I felt at the thrift store to trust Him with something bigger. Luckily, I did, with great results!  When my sibling moved away, it was very difficult for me at first. I felt a bit alone and empty inside where my sibling’s presence used to be. However, I realized I needed to sacrifice for that sibling so that they could accomplish what they needed to do get a better job without pressure or me (or my parents) hovering over that sibling.  I needed to allow them to grow.  Going to a new church was also very difficult for me. I remember God had asked and said to me a few years back, “What if [old church name] no longer existed? Wouldn’t I still be there for you? What if you had to go back to [another old church]? What if I have greater plans for [old church name]? What if you could just enjoy now and trust Me?” This was kind of prophetic, in retrospect, because now the old church doesn’t really exist (at least as that named church) and God has been doing something different through that church.  However, I felt God’ s nudging that I should look for a different church so that He could grow me better. Almost a year later, I have been going to my current church and grown so much there!  But I had to sacrifice the presence of my church family I had grown with for about ten years (and still miss them), in order to make room for something different that God wanted to do with my life.

Now, I sense God may be nudging me to give up some of my co-workers and managers at work, in a way, in order that I depend on Him more, and not on them and their approval so much. I am not saying that I no longer value them or that their approval doesn’t matter to me. What I am saying, through future events, is that I may need to give up having to be with some of them constantly (or for my own happiness) so that they may feel more joyful or less stressed in their lives.  It’s not that I was a burden to them or something either, but that change was needed in their lives so that they could have a deeper sense of purpose and positively impact the lives of others. (And, no  I’m not planning to quit my job either, in case you’re wondering…)

How to Sacrifice For Others (without sacrificing your identity):

  1. Allow them the option of leaving or rejecting you, if you really love or care about the other person.–This is why stalking is so wrong. It does not give the person the space they need to breathe apart from you. Even though I know most of you would never stalk someone, when we don’t allow a person close to you (i.e.. a family member, spouse or a close friend) adequate space apart from you, they may feel suffocated and trapped, and they will not be able to really love you fully from their heart(s), or their own free will.  This may be painful and upsetting for you. Trust me; I have experienced this many, many times in my life, more times than I care to count. However, if we don’t allow this option, not only will that person grow in their love for you but you won’t grow either! If this other person or persons really love you, they will at least visit you. If they don’t care to even acknowledge you anymore, then the relationship was not meant to be, and you have to move on for their sake and yours!
  2. Be willing to give up your selfish dreams and desires for that other person or persons.–For instance, if you and your friend are in the same car and he or she is driving, let them choose the music they listen to for their pleasure, even if you dislike it, especially if it is only a matter of taste.  Also, parents, never ever live vicariously through your child or children and impose your dreams and wants on them! Let them have their own dreams and goals. Yes, raise them with a set of rules and morals you believe will help them be successful in life, but never force your child into a profession or activity they don’t want just because you didn’t get to do it yourself.
  3. Be willing to give up something valuable for that other person or persons, if the situation calls for that.–This may be sacrificing financially for the sake of the poor, or it may be something as simple as sacrificing your time to help another person or friend in need.  For instance, if someone you know at work or at school often goes hungry and does not bring a lunch or dinner with them when they are feeling hungry, you could sacrifice for them by fasting that meal and giving your meal to them. Or you could still eat your meal, but offer to buy the person a meal from a restaurant or store.  This is not to cultivate a “poor-me” mentality, but to serve the other person in need.

As one can see, even if in some circles, sacrificing for others is highly discouraged or even rejected, sacrifice is an important part for both parties in a healthy relationship.  Though it may not be wise to sacrifice for someone who is constantly trying to take advantage of you, you should find someone for whom it is a wise and viable idea to sacrifice to, whether it be God or another person. Who has sacrificed a lot for you? And who have you sacrificed for? Please discuss in the comments.

What I Learned From the Movie “Priceless”

Disclaimer: I am not in any way affiliated with the movie’s producers or any distributors, nor am I making any money off these reviews.  Any opinions are always strictly my own. Also, contains spoilers!

(source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Priceless_(2016_film))

“Priceless” starts out with a man named James who tragically loses his wife and subsequently loses custody of his daughter, Emerson, after not being able to keep a steady job and becoming an alcoholic. Then, a guy offers James money to drive a truck cross-country no questions asked. He does, until, one day when he crashes the truck and is run off the road after a storm. Curiosity and a gnawing sense something is wrong prompts him to open the back of the truck. He does and discovers two young ladies inside.  After discovering that these ladies were being recruited for prostitution purposes, James and his friend Dale, who later discovers the truck that James drove, tries to shut down the prostitution ring and rescue these women before it’s too late.

As with everything in life, even movies, there is always something to be learned from them. “Priceless” is no exception. Here’s what I learned from this movie:

  1. Everyone has value, and that alone is worthy of protection.–It’s obvious that even though James has been absent for most of Emerson’s young life, he still values her enough to think about her a lot. This is in contrast to the pimps that wanted to prostitute the two young women who James found inside his truck. Not only did the pimps in the story want to use them for their own perverted pleasures, but they didn’t even care about these women’s feelings or livelihood.  Because James and Dale knew that these men (the pimps) were up to no good, they knew they had to do something to rescue at the very least the two young women whose lives were in danger, and shut down the prostitution ring.  We can apply this concept even to our own lives. If we see or hear of someone that is lonely or feels depressed or hurt, we should not only comfort them but encourage and cultivate the positive aspects of their character and treat them as valuable human beings, rather than commodities to be used for our own purposes. For instance, if someone tells you that they have no friends and that they feel that no one cares about them, be their friend and love them. Yes, it may be difficult, but doing the right thing is sometimes not easy, but we have to strive to do the best we can.  If we witness someone being abused or bullied, stand up for them. Don’t let people hurt others, especially if they are in a vulnerable position. Everyone has value, cherish and protect that.
  2. Sometimes doing the right thing is difficult, but we have to do it.–At first, James was hesitant to rescue the two women (Antonia and Maria) because he had promised to be with his own daughter, Emerson. However, James knew he had to rescue Antonia and Maria, I believe, not only because he knew it was the right thing to do but also to be a good example to Emerson.  James had to sacrifice some time with his daughter, for a higher purpose. If he had forgotten about the two women, James’s conscience would have been eating at him, and he wouldn’t have been such a good example to his own daughter.  Of course, this can be applied to our own lives as well. Have you ever had to do something difficult, but it was right, morally, to do it, as in an obligation? I have.  For instance, several days ago I was having a bad day and yelled at someone I shouldn’t have.  Instead of clinging to my pride and blaming them for my anger, I apologized to them and have tried to make things right with them. It was difficult, because I had to let go of my pride and selfishness, but it was the right thing to do.
  3. One person can make a big difference.–James was just an ordinary guy that was down on his luck (and pride).  However, when the situation called, he made a huge impact in the lives of several girls and women caught in the throws of prostitution.  Yes, James was able to sacrifice even his life, to save Antonia and Maria, and other women.  However, we also can make a positive difference, even if it seems small. For instance, if you see or hear about a customer or client that doesn’t have enough money to pay for your services or products, but they really need it to survive, you can offer to pay for them.  Even something a simple as a sincere compliment or word or words of encouragement to someone who is depressed or suicidal can save someone’s life or at least make their day.  Never believe you can’t impact lives for the positive. Anyone can, even YOU can!

“Priceless” ends with James marrying Antonia, and them rescuing countless girls and women who were formerly involved with prostitution. It also ends with these women and girls being brought into James’ and Antonia’s home and being nurtured and encouraged into a new, hope-filled, love-filled life.