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My Journey to the Light: Lessons Learned in the Dark

Also appeared in Persevering Hope, October 2019.

DISCLAIMER: Triggers for mention of suicide.

 On April 9, 1999, I had penned these words, ““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?”  Though I had been already battling depression for over five years at that point, that month was one of the lowest for me.   I had few, if any, friends, and I felt those closest to me could not relate with the emotional anguish and sickness that I was going through.  School was very stressful for me, as I endured a difficult class with an even more difficult teacher, who was verbally abusive to me and others.  Thankfully, God, in His mercy and grace, met me where I was at, a little over a year later, and did not allow me to give up on myself or on life.

I continued struggling through depression through my college years, and even still struggle occasionally now. However, I can attest that things have been much better now than they were that April day, twenty years ago!  In the deep darkness of my battle, I have learned so much that has enabled me to help encourage others who may feel that they are in the deep pit of despair and hopelessness and who are close to the end of their ropes.  Here are some of the lessons that I learned along this journey from the darkness to the light:

  1. Never give up! There is always hope when you are alive. Always! —I have wanted to give up more times than I could count, but God, in His sovereignty and love, never let me get that far.  I remember having symptoms of depression since I was ten years old.  When you are battling something that seems chronic or suffering for a long time, it is very tempting to give up on life and on God. However, perseverance is always worth it in the end.  For instance, when I was the most depressed, I thought no one would understand or even care about what I was going through. I hid the pain and the fears of having been bullied and rejected by some peers when I was growing up, and thought if I just tried to forget about it, the pain would eventually go away. However, when it manifested in increasing discouragement and an insatiable hunger for the desire to be accepted and love, and deep despair when my desires were not met, I thought more and more about ending my life.  Thankfully, God eventually took a hold of my life, and I began to see the purpose of my life. I also began to be increasingly motivated to spread God’s love to others.  Never would have thought then, that I would be surrounded by so many loving and supportive family and friends that I have today. I am truly blessed.  Had I taken my own life then, I would have never saw the light God had prepared for me today.
  2. Be compassionate and caring to those who are in pain, either and both physical and emotional. —I wish the people in my life now were there when I was struggling to see my value in this world and if there was any hope left in my life.  I find that when I am able and willing to even speak a word of encouragement to those who are stressed out at work, that their countenance begins to spark and brings them hope. When you see someone visibly upset and in pain, never stare judgmentally at them, but try to comfort them and offer them words of encouragement.  Nothing irritates me more than those judgmental, cold stares and comments from people when I am upset! I’m sure that upsets others in pain as well. When you take the time to care for and encourage those in pain, you bring them the hope and love that they have needed all along. Yes, sometimes caring for people is hard work, but you can possibly save a life when you take the time and effort for them. It is also so worth it!
  3. I learned that there was a purpose to my pain. — I have to admit—I have an intense phobia of suffering. Not only do I hate when I suffer, but I also detest when my loved ones and friends have to suffer as well.  However, when I am able to see the big picture of why God allowed me to go through the struggles and battles of depression and anxiety, I see that He was shaping my purpose to be able to help others who needed hope as well.  Had I not struggled with depression, I would not be able to relate to, on more than a superficial level, with the intense struggles that the people around me have had to go through. This truth is also emphasized in 2 Corinthians 1:3-5 (KJV), where it says, “Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God.” So, when we go through trials, God will comfort us, both so we can endure the trial successfully, and for us to be able to then comfort others.

So, as I continue to apply and review the lessons that I learned in the dark and afterwards, I taste and see that the Lord is good.  Because God did not allow me to give up, I am able to see the bountiful blessings that He has given me, the opportunities He has given me to care for others who are in need of hope, and I learned that I have a calling in life that required me to go through some pain in order to be able to fulfill it.  Do you feel aimless or in despair?  There is purpose to your life, and God can use you to help others in their pain if you don’t give up.  There is always hope when you are alive— and my journey to the Light is a testament to that fact!

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On Vulnerability, Depression, and God’s Sovereignty

No one knew.

Growing up, I seemed this bubbly, albeit, times, hyperactive little girl who got decent grades at school. I seemed to have it all—two parents who loved me, a cute little brother, and stability. 

What they didn’t know was that inside I was being tormented by thoughts about never being “good enough” to the outside world.  Unfortunately, many of them confirmed my fears.  Most of my peers didn’t want to know me on a level deeper than “acquaintance”.  I was bullied by several of them for any quirks that they saw in me. There also were some racial and cultural prejudices that I had to endure. 

I remember at the tender age of ten when the word “suicide” first entered the recesses of my mind. The demons in my mind deceived me into thinking this was a way out of all the pain I held inside for so long, laughing that they were going to somehow get me to ruin myself.

However, God in His sovereignty didn’t let that happen. I am still here, more than twenty five years later. 

Though God saved my life through Jesus’ shed blood on Calvary seven years after I first battled depression and that ugly word crossed my mind, it wasn’t until about seven years ago today that God revealed to me that I had indeed another weapon in my arsenal to defeat the demons in my head that had harassed me for so long. 

My voice.

However, I was terrified to be vulnerable (i.e…open up) to others about my struggles. I feared rejection, ridicule and condemnation, which I believed would kill me emotionally and spiritually, if not, physically as well.  In fact, in high school, I was voted “Most Paranoid” because I trusted so few people.

But through the Spirit’s promptings, I obeyed Him, and began to share my story and my struggles to others—first just to close friends, then more publicly in my blog.

The rejection and ridicule I feared receiving was few and far between.  Most people instead either related to me about their own similar struggles with depression or said that they would use my story to help their loved ones who were struggling similarly. 

The more I opened up about my struggles, the more I saw people around me, both online and offline, the more I realized that my story needed to be told.  God, in His sovereignty, had a reason for allowing me to go through these trials. He needed to use my story to give people His hope and love that He gave me so many years ago, when He first came into my life and saved me.  God saved me from more than hell—He saved me from giving up on myself and those around me that needed to hear my story, as much as I needed to hear theirs.

Image by Vicki Nunn from Pixabay
caring, community, credos, death, eternal matters, family, friends, God, heroes, illness, life, life lessons, love, pain, purpose, stories, suffering, thankfulness, truth

Keep on Fighting

The s-word.    It carries more judgment, stigma, and heartache than any other word in the English language.  Yet it affects more people than we care to realize or notice, but we dare not talk about it.  According to the National Institute of Mental Health in the U.S, in 2017, a whopping 9.8 million people have had serious thoughts about wanting to commit suicide. 

I can relate to those 9.8 million people.  Having struggled with depression for over half a century, I have had those same thoughts of suicide.  However, because of Jesus, He has pulled me through every one of those episodes and has never given up on me. Additionally, Jesus has provided me with a great support system that will listen to and help me through whenever I feel this way, without judgment or condemnation. 

Unfortunately, not everyone struggling right now has an adequate or a good support system. The good news is that, we can strive to be a support to at least some of those around us who are struggling right now. The good news is that if you are struggling right now, there are resources and people who want to encourage you and give you the hope and encouragement I got through Jesus and my support system as well.  I would also like to share some things that my support of family and friends have collectively taught and reiterated to me over the years when I feel like life is just too much:

You are a survivor!

Like me, you may have encountered people that have betrayed and abused you.  But, then, Jesus will give you strength to survive them or He will take them out of your life.  Keep on fighting!

Like me, you may feel that your efforts to succeed in life are never enough, and that you always fall short.  Don’t worry. Jesus will provide the strength you need to truly succeed—maybe not as the rest of the world sees “success,” but more importantly, how He sees success. Keep on fighting!

Like me, you may feel sometimes that no one truly cares for you, or really knows you.  But, then, Jesus brings people into your life that will prove you wrong.  So, keep on fighting!

Like me, you may feel disconnected from society or that you don’t belong anywhere.  Then, Jesus will provide His Church and/or those around you to remind you that you do impact their live and that you do share a part of their heart. Keep on fighting!

Whatever you are going through and wherever you are in life, don’t give up! I almost did, but I am glad that Jesus didn’t allow me to end it all, because I never would have known the blessing of redemption and love!

You are a survivor! Keep on fighting!

Sources:

https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics/suicide.shtml#part_154973

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Lessons Learned in the Dark of Depression

Image by Enrique Meseguer from Pixabay

For over 25 years, I have gone in and out of the throes of depression. During my worst episodes, I seriously considered ending my life. Thankfully, every time I wanted to give up, God rescued me out of the pit of despair and helped me see His love and light. Even though I would have preferred to not go through the darkness for so long, and though I had wanted to give up so many times, I am thankful that God taught me so many valuable life lessons that I now strive to apply to my life:

Image by Myriam Zilles from Pixabay

One lesson I learned from going through depressive episodes is to be more open and genuine with others in expressing my true self. In the past, I was so afraid of what people would think of me, that I never told anyone for a long time about my struggles, past and present. Unfortunately, I got so used to hiding that when I finally decided needed help with my issues, some people thought I really didn’t have those issues! However, the longer I struggled, the more apparent it became to me that I needed to talk to someone about my issues, and more than likely, several people.

Then, I started to talk. I began opening up the layers of my pain in my past. What I realized is that many of the people I opened up to struggled with similar issues! Also, I didn’t get most of the judgment or condemnation I had feared, and those that judged me were often the same ones that God would later remove from my life anyway. When I started opening up and being vulnerable with others, not only did I forge stronger bonds with those around me, but I found that the pain I went through in my depression lessened, as I started to heal.

Another lesson I learned from going through depression is to be value my time– especially the good, depression-free times– more. When I am depressed, I can only see the wounds and ugliness of myself and life. I feel like I am in a long, dark tunnel with no end to it. However, when I am content with life and glance back at (but not dwell) on my depressive episodes, I realize how blessed I am! Reflecting back causes me to value and appreciate the good times more, because I see how far God has brought me from the darkness of the worst of my depressive episodes.

Image by mohamed Hassan from Pixabay

The most pertinent lesson that God has taught me from going through depression, in my mind, is that He had a purpose and a plan for allowing me to walk in the dark for so long. I have learned that God has been using my struggle with depression, and the past hurts that had exacerbated my depression, to help me minister to others with similar or even more complex issues than I ever had!  He has also used my struggle with depression to help me be more compassionate and caring towards others in pain, and in order to strengthen my character by tearing down the layers of selfishness and self-righteousness in my heart.

If anyone is struggling with depression or suicidal thoughts right now, know that God has a good purpose for all you have been through. We may never know what it is this side of the world, but God never wastes our pain.  Let this be our hope to never give up no matter what life brings us.

Image by brigachtal from Pixabay
caring, community, diversity, eternal matters, family, friends, genuineness, inspiration, life, life lessons, love, peace, poem, positivity, purpose, rejection, thankfulness, truth, Uncategorized

Butterfly

You thought no one would want you

You thought you were hideous

That none would truly love you

That you were doomed forever

 

But then you saw a bright light

Someone who saw your beauty

And not just an ugly sight

Giving you true hope inside

 

Despite all you have gone through

You are a true butterfly

And I will always love you

And the beauty inside you

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The Necessity of Compassion at Work

Photo by rawpixel.com from Pexels

Recently, I have seen or witnessed more than my fair share of what happens when compassion is lacking or absent in the workplace. I saw a video of a person vandalizing company property because they had been bullied so much there. Now, there is even training in many companies of how to survive a workplace shooting! What has this world come to? And how can we do our part to make sure each associate and client in the workplace is treated with dignity and respect?

One of the ways we can do this is by showing compassion to others. According to Merriam- Webster.com, compassion can be defined as “ sympathetic consciousness of others’ distress to alleviate it.” (“Definition of Compassion, Merriam-Webster). In other words, compassion is having a heart to help and heal others through their pain and struggles.

Why we should show compassion:

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

The primary reason for us to show compassion is because Christ did. In Matt 9:36, when he was preaching in the cities to crowds, He “was moved with compassion on them, because they fainted, and were scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd.” In Matt 15:32, Jesus said to His disciples, “ I have compassion on the multitude,because they continue with me now three days, and have nothing to eat: and I will not send them away fasting, lest they faint in the way.” In each instance, Jesus wanted to provide for them, either or both physical or spiritual nourishment. Compassion is different from pity in that compassion strives for action, while pity is more passive and often takes a hint of condescension.

We should also show compassion for the sake of our humanity. When we regularly and intentionally show compassion to others, we become more caring, and thus, more human. Some people reason if they stop caring about others, they won’t get hurt. While that may have some truth to it, being completely apathetic breeds monsters. The results are people murdering and/ or abusing others “for fun” or just to suit some sadistic fantasy.  These people are so callous, they no longer have the capacity to truly care about anyone outside themselves.

Furthermore, we should show compassion for others to help save lives or at least avert violence in the workplace. In the example of a person being bullied by colleagues and even managers, what if instead they tried to ascribe dignity and compassion to them? What if instead of participating in workplace gossip, we focused instead on thanking those who work hard for us everyday? If someone is clearly distraught or upset, instead of ignoring or ridiculing them, we should try to comfort and be encouraging to them.  When we do this for the people who work with us, or for our clients, we can sometimes save their lives. Maybe if more people showed compassion, less troubled people would be tempted to wreak havoc at our jobs. Instead, they would have more motivation to do something positive with their lives because they know someone cares.

Last, but not least, compassion breeds productivity. For example, one of my now-former managers, *Elizabeth, knew I was very stressed one day, and instead of punishing me or getting upset at me, reiterated the qualities she admired in me, and encouraged me to not give up. Also, Elizabeth also allowed me to learn many things under her direction and didn’t give up on me when I didn’t get it right the first time. Her compassion for me when I was stressed and when no one else believed in me is a big part of what kept me going during tough times in our store.  Now when I’m stressed and remember what Elizabeth said to me, I feel much more motivated to persevere through the stress.

Ways to Demonstrate Compassion:

Some of the ways we should demonstrate compassion are:

  1. To encourage others who are going through a tough time.– When someone looks stressed or upset, be there to comfort and encourage them. For instance, if a co-worker is going through a divorce with their soon-to-be ex spouse, tell them they are not alone and help them through that with whatever you can.
  2. To pray for others.– Another way we can demonstrate compassion at work is to be willing to pray for others if they tell you of a need or concern and are open to prayer. Many people see our willingness to care enough to put their needs and concerns before the Lord as a refreshing and positive thing.
  3. To serve others.– I have had several coworkers who have struggled with physical health issues, so I have offered to help them with some of their tasks. This allows them to be more relaxed and thus heal faster, then if they had to work at the same frantic pace that may be expected of them when they are 100%. Another way one can help is to pick up some of their shifts if they anticipate not being able to work at all.
  4. To appreciate others’ good work– When you see someone doing a good job or if someone does something to help you, thank them. Write a note of encouragement and appreciation to the colleagues that have helped you the most, and the managers that do above and beyond what is expected of them.

As you can see, compassion goes a long way to improving morale and general workplace conditions. When we show compassion and care, we learn to be more Christlike; we avoid becoming callous monsters, we can help save lives, and help increase productivity, and thus profit for our company.

Source:

“Definition of Compassion.” (July 10, 2019). Retrieved from: https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/compassion .

autism, bullying, caring, community, eternal matters, friends, God, heroes, inspiration, integrity, joy, life, love, pain, positivity, purpose, rejection, stories, thankfulness, truth, work

Because You Believed

to everyone who believed in the potential of a woman with ordinary dreams

One day, at work with two other of her colleagues, chatting over their childhoods during break, a woman– the one with ordinary dreams, said, “When I was growing up, I was naughty, and I didn’t have many friends. One of my peers even said, ‘You are a very difficult person to get along with’.”

Neither of her colleagues believed her.

But it was all too true.

About 25 years earlier, because of her disability and other differences, the woman with ordinary dreams was never taken seriously, regularly taken advantage of by peers, and was often chosen last for team sports in gym class and class projects. No one really wanted to look into her soul and get to know her. She was too selfish, rigid, and difficult; they reasoned.

Ten years later, she became a bit easier to deal with, but had a paranoia and bitter pain in her soul. She really felt she couldn’t trust, much less open up to, anyone. Never had this girl thought she’d ever really be valued in anyone’s eyes. Confirming this despair, one of her teachers had said in so many condemning, angry words that she would probably not amount to much in life, and she believed this for fifteen long years. The week this teacher told her this, this girl with ordinary dreams– one of which was to be accepted and loved for who she was– , saw that dream shatter before her eyes. She reasoned if she would never really be loved for who she was, even to her hurting soul, life was no longer worth it.

Thus, she contemplated suicide, but then God rescued her from self- destruction and despair.

11 years later..

The woman with ordinary dreams meets her mentor who would change her life forever because her mentor believed in her potential and the value of her soul. The mentor keeps prodding and helping the woman until she lands a job in which she can actually succeed. The mentor also helps her gain confidence in herself and believe in her dreams again. Even to her dream of  one day becoming a writer and getting a full- time job somewhere, the mentor never ridiculed or dismissed, but actively helps the woman fulfill them.

6 years later…

The woman with ordinary dreams senses God leading her to a new job, since a previous one no longer fit into her expansive dreams. The woman, with dreams of being a writer and being loved, is stoked about getting an interview at a bookstore, which she considers her “dream” job that would lead her to be able to write someday . However, during the actual interview, it was made clear to her that this was not the job God had for her. Her dreams are shattered once again.

However, she does not give up. Going into a store, which she applied for, to buy a few things, she suddenly hears  a voice in her soul that told her to ask about the application. She does and, subsequently gets an interview. The interviewer, she finds out later, was going to be her manager!

That manager is the hardest worker she has ever seen in her life! While preparing the logistics for the interview and afterwards, she sees the manager also stocking items in the area he manages, or doing returns.

The woman is shocked to find out that she has been accepted for the job–and happy as well.  However, she doesn’t know then, that God would use that job to fulfill her ordinary dreams of being loved and also becoming full-time.

That woman was me.

Epilogue:

This month marks three years with my current job. It may not seem like much, but considering I’ve not had many jobs where I was in one company that long, it is only by God’s grace, my mentor J, Chris*, Elizabeth *, and countless others who believed I could be of value to them, that I was able to make it this far.  My wonderful co- workers and managers in #1401 have taught me so much. I aspire to be like my mentor J, who never gave up on me and who valued me. I aspire to be like Chris, whose work ethic and dedication to his associates is a model for me to follow. I aspire to be like Elizabeth, who always believed in her associates’ potentials and encouraged them to reach for the stars. She encouraged me to learn to cashier when others seemed more reluctant to take me on, and satisfied my curiosity to learn new skills and to try my best always. I aspire to be like Hope*, who first offered me full- time and encouraged me to strive for excellence.

Thank you everyone at #1401 who helped me get to where I am today. Today, I am able to realize my ordinary dreams, all because you believed in me.

some of the wonderful people that helped me realize my ordinary dreams.

*= names changed for privacy of the individuals mentioned.

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Glorious Joy

 written:  12/23/2018

I was in so much despair

Thinking I was beyond repair

Joy was not a part of my life

I was suffering from much strife

 

Everything seemed to go wrong

Life seemed to just drag me along

But then God rescued me

And His love I began to see

 

Like a growing tree, my joy grew

I learned contentment that was true

As I was led into the light

My life became a glorious sight

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Precious Sunshine

–written 10/26/2018

Tears fall from your weary eyes

As your foes plan your demise

You think you lost it all

But I’ll protect you from the fall

 

For you are precious to me

Your light I will always see

Your presence brightens my life

And it never causes me strife

 

You have given me much love

You’re a gift from up above

You give me reason to be

Because your soul shines in me

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Having Christmas In Your Heart

This past week had been very stressful for me—and for many people around me.  Two or three departments at my job were without management, including mine, leaving me to do even more work than usual. Managers, associates, and customers were seemingly extra busy and pressured this past week—especially some of the higher levels of management at my workplace. At church, we just voted in a new pastor, who will officially start a few months from now. Finally, in the midst of all this, my family and I are making our own preparations for Christmas.

You may be also experiencing similar stressors—but, maybe, hopefully not.  Regardless, I was encouraged by God to develop more peace in my life and to incorporate more of the character of what Christmas truly should be about, in my life. As I read in my church bulletin today, Roy L. Smith, had said, “He who has not Christmas in his heart, will never find it under a tree.” So, if we can’t find Christmas under a tree, how can we find the true character of Christmas?  Here is what I learned about finding the true character of Christmas in my heart:

  1. One of the things that I learned about having Christmas in my heart is that I needed to have more peace in my life. – In Matthew 11:28-30, it says that when we rest in Jesus, He gives us peace for our souls (translated in the KJV as “rest,” which is essentially the same thing). Unfortunately during this week, I found myself being anxious about bad things that either never happened at all, or wasn’t as bad as I once thought.  For instance, I was very upset at myself because I accidentally spilled my entire lunch. Not only did it  needed to be cleaned up, but I would have to now waste time and money buying myself a new one so I would be able to sustain myself energy wise to continue to be able to work afterwards.  I was also stressed out as I thought about all that I already spent on presents for various people in my life, and now I had to spend this additional money and have less time to eat my lunch!  However, all my anxiety turned out to be for naught, because although I did have to spend more time and money, I also got to eat some things that I have never really tried before—and turned out to be pretty good.  Additionally, one of my kind and generous friends, Allison*, graciously gave me almost her whole bag of her favorite onion ring chips. What I have learned about not being anxious is to look for the good in my uncomfortable, bad, or anxiety-producing situations. If I can’t think of any, I should try to ask myself what good can come out of the situation at hand. For instance, if I don’t have time to complete my work, I should try to focus on doing a good job on the work that I CAN complete, instead of rushing to try to complete everything and doing a half-hearted job. I also am still learning and have learned that when I let God be in control, my anxiety goes away.  When you become anxious, reminding yourself that God’s got this, or that things often don’t turn out as badly as we fear they might, really can help the anxiety go away, or, at least, lessen in severity.
  2. Another thing that I learned about having Christmas in my heart is to cultivate joy. — Sometimes, in the midst of stress and busyness, we forget to enjoy life.  I know that is often the case with me. One of my online friends even had suggested to me in the midst of me writing about my stress that week to take time and enjoy myself.  Yes, we should love and serve others, but we should also not forget to have joy in doing so.  Also, we need to take time to rest and recharge occasionally so we can minister more effectively to others and not get burnt out.  One of the things that I like to do for relaxation and recharging is to read about various topics such as various recipes, different places around the world (travel),  exercise, inspirational topics, and much more.  I used to be part of an online blogging group that encouraged me to read other people’s blogs, which were on a wide range of topics.  Because of this, I was able to broaden my interests. One thing I would recommend to anyone struggling to find something that they enjoy doing or having more hobbies is to force yourself to read books in a library or articles online on a variety of topics that seem interesting to you.  Then, as you learn about more things, often your interest in that said topic broadens as well.  Also, when we serve others, we should have joy in getting to know those who we are serving and focusing on their contentment, rather than on the stress of having one more thing added to our “list” of things to do. Also, when we focus this Christmas on having the joy in having Jesus come to earth as a human baby to eventually grow up and become the ultimate sacrifice for us, instead of the busyness and commercialism that this society often puts in Christmas, we will be happier to serve others.
  3. The most important thing I learned about having Christmas in my heart is to cultivate love.– Since it says in the Bible, in various places, that Jesus is the embodiment of love,  and since love is what makes Christmas more meaningful, I learned that instead of acting like the Grinch, I should strive to love others more.  Christmas is not only the time to give presents to family and friends, but also to be willing to sacrifice for them and others.  For instance, if Christmas is difficult for someone, sacrificing your time to be there for them to encourage them through it and helping them cope with this time of year, can make their Christmas a little bit brighter than usual.  Giving others hope when they are in a hopeless or a desperate situation can help them to see God’s love and to know that they are not alone.  Another way to love others is to thank the people in your life that have made the most positive difference in your life. For instance, if a teacher or manager at work has really encouraged you in your abilities in some ways, now is the time to thank them and to let them know that they are not taken for granted. If your parents and/or significant other have served you faithfully for a long time, now is the time to let them know that you notice their sacrifice and their service on your behalf.

So, as this post is as much to myself, as to you, the reader, I hope we will cultivate the character of Christmas in our hearts and lives, so that we can impact the world for the better.  When we don’t have Christmas in our hearts, the joy, peace, and love that flows out of the Christmas spirit, will never be found even under a tree. Let’s pray that this will not be true of us this Christmas season, but instead we will embody the joy, love, and peace that this time of year is supposed to bring, not only to ourselves, but more importantly, to God and others.