My Journey To Joy

My journey to joy started when I was 16 years old, the year that God became a part of my life and being. This life journey has been on-going, with a lot of stumbles and falls in between. However, with the help of God and others in my life, I am able to get back up again and then continue to live joyfully each day.

Getting Out of the Pit of Darkness and Depression

Shortly before God rescued me from my sins and from my hopelessness that I felt in life, I was on my last rope.  I had a teacher that I believed was verbally abusive. He told me in no uncertain terms that I would amount to very little in life. This was a message that I internalized for many years and it almost became a self-fulfilling prophecy, but God is merciful.  In addition to that, I felt much pressure from everyone around me, but most of all, myself, to do well academically in school and go to the college of my dreams.  Because this aforementioned teacher failed me and I felt trapped in this class, I felt hopeless and even suicidal at times.  Also, I didn’t have the emotional support of many of my peers or even most of my teachers.

Then, one day (see: testimony link for more details), one of the few friends that I had, invited me to her bible study at school. Even though I was not religious at the time, I was searching and wanted to please my friend, so I went. I didn’t become a follower of Christ right away, but after several months, one day in my bedroom, I gave my life to Christ.  This was the beginning of slowly (emphasis on the word “slowly”) getting out of the pit of darkness and depression.

College and my first taste of joy

A couple of years later, I went to college, albeit not the one of my dreams. I remember dorm life being very difficult and trying for me. However, there I met my first friends that encouraged me when I was depressed and helped me gain footing for my faith.

After college/The first signs of my growing in faith

The first two churches I attended after college gave me a foundation to my newfound faith in Christ.  They taught me who God was and how His influence could be applied to my life.  I also found more joy in the second of the two churches I attended because I felt like it was there that I felt the most loved.  When I was upset because of the stress of life, several people at this church supported me emotionally and reminded me of what I had in Christ.  They encouraged me to persevere in life. It was also during this time that I first developed a community of friends online, who also encouraged me in my trials and who I could encourage in theirs. I developed a sense of hope and a glimpse of joy in my life. However, my joy was not yet mature and there were still way too many times when I became depressed again.

Joy Grows By Leaps and Bounds

In June of 2013, I got my first job where I felt that I could do fairly well in it. Indeed many of the managers and associates valued my work there. I still talk to a few of the people I worked with there. There, I learned how to treat customers and clients, and more in-depth about the sales/retail industry and how things worked.  I also continued to build relationships with the people at the church I attended at the time.  This is the first time I remember that I could say that I had some semblance of joy in my life.  However, God had greater opportunities in store for me. In March of 2016, God was calling me to a different job, and in October of 2016, God was calling me to bless a new congregation as well.

My Current Life and How My Joy Has Grown Even More

How I got my current job was truly a miracle and a God-thing in itself. For more details on how I got my current job, see this link.  God has blessed me more in the past three years, than in the first thirty-or-so years of my life!  Besides getting a new job, I also went to a new church.  This church has been a godsend to me for many reasons. First of all, the pastor not only preaches great sermons applicable to my daily life, but he also lives what he preaches, something rare in these days, even among professing Christians.  Sure, he is not perfect, but he is humble enough to admit this.  Also, so many people in my current church have supported me and encouraged me in my faith or when I had problems at work or elsewhere.  Also, I love how this church prays for one another and aims to provide for those congregants in need.  Also, my mentor J has helped me a lot in this season of life to debunk the negative thoughts about myself that some people in the past had communicated to me through their attitudes, words, and actions.  She, as well as others in my life, have encouraged me to become more confident in my God-given abilities and see myself as God sees me, not as someone who is better than everyone else, but also not as someone who is worthless and bad either.  My current job has also been a tremendous blessing. Yes, there have been many difficult days and situations there too, but they –and also the blessings of my job—have both served to help me know God’s love for me better and have helped me become a better person.  Finally, it seems I have been able to let go of some of my past hurts and anger towards the ones that have hurt me. God has even helped me to either reconcile with these people or not let them affect my self-worth and attitude anymore (or at least less).

The Future of Joy

In the future, I would like to solidify my joy by dying to self. Yes, the concept of denying myself seems counterintuitive to my joy, but I don’t think it will.  This is because when one is living only for oneself, they often create strife and unhappiness for others, and because of that, end up miserable instead of truly joyous.  However, for me, dying to self will actually allow me more joy because I no longer have to worry about what others think of me and my desires will no longer be of urgent importance , and so I will no longer be so upset if I don’t get what I want in life.  For instance, if I do something nice for someone that some of my friends don’t get along with because I feel God prompting me to, I will no longer worry about my friends thinking I will “betray” them by doing something good for their “enemy”. I will be able to do it willingly and with joy because what my friends think will take a back seat to serving God and others.  Also, if my manager tells me to do something necessary (i.e.. something that their boss tells them must be done also) for the smooth running of the store but that feels stressful and uncomfortable, I will no longer feel the urge to complain and/or refuse to do it because I don’t like it. I will be more willing to do said thing with a better attitude and even joy than if my aim were to do things that I want to do just because I want to do them.

This is my journey to joy. It is on-going and there will be many stops and starts along the way, but I know with God’s help, my joy will become more and more mature.

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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)

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 the “Be Kind” quote

The quote, “Be kind; everyone you meet is fighting a harder battle,” is widely misattributed to Plato, but actually Ian MacLaren, or John Watson, is said to be the original source of this quote. (source: https://quoteinvestigator.com/2010/06/29/be-kind/). God has been putting this quote in my mind a lot recently, in the wake of stress and my wanting to be less upset and irritated by people and things around me.  Here is what I have learned from meditating on this quote that can be applied to anyone of any belief in every walk of life:

  1. Being kind is rooted in our gratitude.—When we are ungrateful, it is hard to think that others deserve anything good at all. We feel entitled to our “stuff,” that we lose sight of other people’s stories. However, when we see each day and each thing as a gift that is not necessarily deserved, we are freer to be able to give to others our kindness and our gifts. When we realize what some other people go through are harder than what we are currently dealing with, we appreciate our lives more. For instance, a lot of people I know don’t have a lot of supportive family and friends and have gone through some very rough times in their lives with little help. When I hear their stories, I appreciate that I have my family and my church community to help me through rough times in my life. I am kinder to those that have less support because I want them to be able to have the help that I already have.
  2. Being kind is rooted in how much we care for others.—When we care about other people, we are more likely to be sympathetic and empathetic to their hurt and pain in their life. We are more likely to do more than just to offer superficial platitudes, and instead, try to do something to help alleviate their pain and get through their tough situation in life. We don’t feel burdened down by our own problems, because we are not self-focused, but are willing and able to give our love and support to others as well.  If I am stressed and burdened by my own problems, I am much less effective in helping others through theirs because not only am I being self-focused but my capacity to care and think about others is also decreased.  Yes, there are times when our problems will seem insurmountable and burdensome, but when we try to also look outside ourselves and our pain, we are not only able to help others overcome their difficulties, but our own problems will also seem less intense and heavy.
  3. Being kind is rooted in our humility—Being arrogant, to me, is thinking that you are better than everyone else, that everyone else is inferior to you. When one is arrogant, it is very difficult, if not impossible, for them to be kind to others. When one realizes that their needs are not necessarily more important than another’s, they are more able to be kind and care for others effectively.  When your mindset is to be kind to everyone because everyone is going through something that may be harder than the burden you are carrying, you are valuing others and are not thinking with a “poor-me” attitude.  You are submitting yourself to another’s needs because you know that other people have value and need your support too.

Though being kind is sometimes difficult and takes a lot of thought and care, it is better than being unkind and rude to others.  Being kind is rooted in our thankfulness of what has been given to us, because our gratitude is expressively linked to how kind we are able to be to others. It is rooted in how much we care about other people and their lives.  Finally, being kind is rooted in being humble because it is necessary to be able to prefer another above yourself, in both their needs and desires.  Who can you be kind to today?

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 Gratitude Can Help Alleviate Depression

Now, I am NOT saying that all or even some depressed people are not grateful people. I have struggled with depression since the age of ten, so I know that sometimes it is impossible to even begin to have a positive mindset without help from an outside source, and having an attitude of gratitude for anyone, even if you don’t suffer from depression, takes time.  That being said, what helped alleviate some of my depression personally is to think of things that I am thankful for and not dwelling so much on things that are not going great for me.  Each day when I am at work, I write down at least three things from that day (or the previous one) which I am thankful.   Some days, I struggle to name even three, and some days I could name almost an infinite list!  Here is how gratitude can help alleviate depression for many people.

  1. Having an attitude of thankfulness helps keep our focus on the good that you do have rather than what you don’t have.—Merriam-Webster.com defines jealousy as, “hostile toward a rival or one believed to enjoy an advantage.”  (source: https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/jealous). Having an attitude of gratitude eliminates this because when you are so thankful for all that you have, you don’t even care about what others have or don’t have anymore, in terms of competition or advantages.  Being thankful means that you know that everything you have is a gift from God and not anything you are entitled to or deserve. When you appreciate someone or something that you believe is intrinsically good, you can enjoy time with that person or thing much more than if you view them as something that you are “owed.”
  2. Having an attitude of gratitude helps alleviate the anxiety that can be present with depression.—Having a thankful heart also helps alleviate anxious thoughts because this attitude basically says to oneself that no matter what, I will have at least one thing for which I can be thankful. For instance, if one previously has had financial worries and wonders if he or she will have to forsake their needed medication or food in order to function properly, if that person developed a thankful heart, this attitude would help alleviate their worries because they would only focus on the fact that they had enough for today and be joyful in that. One way gratitude has alleviated my depression is by changing my mindset when I am worried.  For instance, if I am worried that I may lose a friendship over something that I have no control over or something that I cannot change at the moment, instead of focusing and ruminating on what I may have done to offend that person , I focus on the people that have stuck by me through thick and thin.  I either talk about my worries with another trusted friend (without an attitude of gossip, of course) or pour my energy into spending time with family and friends with whom I have no problems.
  3. Having an attitude of gratitude enables one to see the hope that is even in the bleakest of circumstances.—Having a thankful heart helps us to be able to hope even in the worst of circumstances. I believe that some of the people who were sent to concentration camps by the Nazi regime were able to survive abusive and horrendous conditions because they were able to still have hope. We can apply the same principles to our lives.  For instance, we can rejoice that even when one of our loved ones has died or is sick, bad as that is, we can still hope and be thankful because we (ourselves) can see another day to make a positive difference in others’ lives.  If we are suffering with others, we can be grateful that we don’t have to suffer alone.  If we have a difficult situation at work, we can be angry and stressed about it all the time, or we can look at it as an opportunity to grow and learn from others and maybe even our own mistakes. (Yes, our feelings are valid, and it is not wrong to be initially angry at things going on in our lives, but don’t get stuck there!)

These are the ways that gratitude has personally helped me through my depression. It is not always easy to have a grateful heart, but with practice and time, it can be cultivated. I am still struggling through this, but when we learn to have an attitude of gratitude, we can live fuller, happier and healthier lives.

When Love Came

When Love Came – written on 10/29/2017

 

Rejected by many, without hope,

I was on my last rope

Death, to me, was better than life

Because my life was full of anguish and strife

 

I tried to fill this hole

With myself and many empty hopes and dreams

As I sank further into depression and oblivion

Losing hope that anything would make me whole

 

That’s when Love came

Enveloped my heart

And took hold of my soul

Leaving me never the same

 

Love came so full of hope and joy

That I know Love will never leave me

Rejection and sadness in my life I still see

But Love has already made me whole

 

Love has filled me to overflowing

With so many good things

That I can’t keep it for only me

I now show Love for you to see

How Love has changed me

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 One Should Say To an Abuse Survivor

DISCLAIMER: Triggers for talk of rape and abuse. Absolutely NO disparaging comments allowed or your comment will be deleted! 

In the era where there are more people coming forward about being abused despite their perpetrators trying to silence them, there is still much work that needs to be done to help these survivors heal. One way this can be done is by saying things that will help the survivor heal and move forward despite all the horrible things that have happened to them. In my experience in dealing with people that have been abused and/or bullied, here are things that I think they need to hear from you:

  1. “I believe you.”–Many survivors suffer not only from the post-traumatic effects of having been abused but also from the stigma of not being believed, especially by family and/or friends of the perpetrator and sometimes even people in their own circle of influence. Saying to them that you believe what they went through was and is valid and real will help them heal because saying this validates their experience and feelings surrounding the traumatic event. It says you will be there for them and that you acknowledge their value and their worth.
  2. “This was not your fault.”–Many survivors also believe, at least to some extent, that the abuse was somehow their fault. This is what the perpetrators want them to believe because they (the aggressors) often do not want to a.) take responsibility for their actions and b.) believe that they are that bad of a person that they need to change their behaviors. However, this is NEVER true.  For instance, even if a rape survivor wore revealing clothing, it does not mean it is the survivor’s fault that they were raped! It is totally and completely the perpetrator’s fault for not controlling himself or herself and treating someone in a vulnerable position like an object of their twisted and selfish pleasures!
  3. “You are valued and loved.” —Many survivors I know struggle with low self-esteem or self-worth. Even people who are not survivors can struggle with this, but survivors even more so because the perpetrators have brainwashed these survivors into thinking that they are much less than they really are. Often perpetrators want their victims to think lowly of themselves, so it is easier for them to control their victims.  Survivors of abuse often struggle with this long after their perpetrators are out of their lives.  Telling the survivor that he or she is valued and loved, with a sincere heart, of course, will help them to regain their confidence and rebuild their lives.  Going a step further, and actually showing them that they are valued and loved, of course, can drastically improve survivors’ lives and/or outlook of their future.
  4. “I am here for you.”–A lot of survivors I know feel alone and/or struggle with depression.  This is often because the perpetrator often wants to silence them. If the perpetrator is successful in doing that, a survivor can feel that they have no one to turn to and that no one can really be trusted. Thus, they feel alone in their pain and suffering, and many can only tell their accounts of the abuse years after it happened.  Some, sadly, even take these accounts to their graves, or the perpetrator is believed instead of the survivor and thus is never punished or disciplined for their crimes. Saying “I am here for you,” will make the survivor feel less alone in their pain. It shows solidarity with them and will eventually open the gates of trust in their heart because saying this with a sincere heart will assure the survivor that they are not alone in their pain and that they don’t have to suffer alone.
  5. “You are beautiful.”–Abuse survivors, especially if they were abused sexually, often struggle with how they view the person staring back at the mirror in some way. Saying this in a platonic and sincere way can help survivors regain their self-confidence. However, one should also be careful to say this in such a way that it emphasizes their infinite worth as unique and awesome creation.  One should never say this half-heartedly or in a seductive manner!
  6. “You are not alone.”–As I said before, a lot of abuse survivors think they are somehow alone in their trial and anguish because they are often silenced or sworn to secrecy by their perpetrators especially if the survivors were abused as children.  Saying “You are not alone” to an abuse survivor can mean the world to them. Even though some may know logically that they are not alone, it is often refreshing for them to know that they a.) don’t suffer alone. b.) their anguish is not so unique that no one can ever understand or relate to them in some way.
  7. “I care about you” OR “I will support you.” –Some abuse survivors may feel that no one really cares about or supports them, especially if they have been told by some people in some way that their experience is not believable (even if what they experienced is 100% true).  Saying and demonstrating in some way that you care about them and are willing to support them can be a boon to them. This will mean to the survivor that they have a friend (you) who will help them through the up and downs of the recovery from their abuse and will show to them the perseverance of true love.
  8. Any other validating words.–What this world, and especially abuse survivors, need is love and validation.  Be careful when offering advice or criticism, because these things can hurt the survivor even more even if it is not intentional.  Often abusers control their victims by demeaning them not only physically, but also with hurtful and unnecessarily devaluing and mean words.  If you must offer advice or criticism, do so gently. Never verbally attack a survivor! Always think of them before yourself. Validate them by reminding them of their worth to you and to society, and do so sincerely. Most people can see through fake gestures of “kindness.”  Be sincere and kind in your words to others, especially survivors, always.

These are some things an abuse survivor needs to hear from you. If we validated everyone, especially people who have been through so much, I believe this whole world would heal from their pain and anguish, and it would be a much better place to live. Who can you love and validate today? Please discuss in 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.