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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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.

Some People Who Have Strengthened Me (and what I learned from them)

By myself, I don’t think I would be a very strong person. However, with these and more people and the power of my God, I am strong.  There really is strength in numbers! These people have strengthened me either/both spiritually and emotionally. I am very glad that these people were brought into my life!

Without further ado, here are some people who have strengthened me in my life and what I have learned from them during those times:

  1. My parents—My parents have been there for me through thick and thin. They have strengthened me by instilling good principles in me for living a successful life, such as the value of hard work and sacrifice. For instance, my dad has worked long hours at his job, not necessarily because he enjoys it, but in order to provide for his family. Not only does he work long hours, but he works very hard when he is at his job. He does not dawdle, but is industrious. My mom has also sacrificed a lot for my family and me. She not only often picked me up, but also helped me with my homework when I needed to be aided.
  2. My brother—My brother has strengthened me emotionally by always helping me see the reality of things when depression or anxiety has clouded my mind. For instance, I was telling him about the stress at my job and how anxious I was that I was not going to get everything done on time, even though I tried my best. I was afraid that I would be penalized by not getting what I needed to done by the end of my shift.  He told me, in so many words, that I was worrying for nothing because a.) Even when I got assigned to a lot of things and didn’t get it done, the managers were understanding. b) I often got things done anyway.  He also told me that I could start prioritizing my tasks so that I wouldn’t have to “eat” the whole assignment at once, but I could just do it bit by bit, eventually getting everything done!
  3. J—My mentor J has also strengthened me by believing in me and that I could accomplish great things before she even saw evidence of anything I did! She helped me find a job and be able to overcome some of my major fears. Some of the things I learned from her are to never give up and to not doubt the abilities that God has given me.  For instance, before I got my current and previous jobs, I did not envision myself being able to work with so many people and be successful at it, but J told me to try anyway. I did, and although there are some difficult times for me, I believe that God has given me success in what I thought I could never do before.  When I wanted to give up on myself, she pushed me to move past my fears and insecurities, and persevere.
  4. My manager I—My manager I has strengthened me in a similar way to J. In the time that I have known her, she has believed in my abilities and has helped me succeed further at work by helping me to both persevere and to learn new skills need to move up in the company. Even though she has a lot on her plate, she tries to find time to help me and to motivate me to continue learning new things.  Even when I didn’t do well one time, she said, “This isn’t you.” because she knew that I could do better and believed in my ability to do better next time.
  5. My (former?) manager Chris*–Chris has helped me learn the value of patience and perseverance. He not only interviewed me for my current job about two years ago and influenced the store manager to hire me, but also helped me personally as well. For instance, when I was stressed out about something, he took the time to call my house and explain the situation to me, something I’m sure not a lot of managers these days are willing to do.  I have learned so much from him and my manager I.
  6. My friend Veronica* –During some particularly trying times in my life, my friend Veronica encouraged me and validated me.  I remember at least one time (probably much more though) where when I wanted to give up on life and on love, she gave me words of hope to persevere in God’s call for me.  She has always affirmed me, especially when I felt like I couldn’t affirm myself.
  7. My friend Erica*–She has always believed in me and my God-given goals in life. Like my brother, she helps me think logically through situations so that I don’t get an unrealistically pessimistic view on things. She has always been willing to spend time with me when she visits, and is willing to invest in me and others around her.  Her perseverance and her care have always been an inspiration to me.

 

 

These are some of the people that have strengthened me. These people are some of the most amazing people I know because they believed in me even when I was at my worst, and gave me hope when I was in despair and didn’t believe it would be better.  I will be forever grateful for them and what they have done to strengthen me.  Who are the people in your life that have strengthened you (especially during difficult times)? What have you learned from them? Please feel free to discuss in the comments.

 

*=pseudonyms to protect privacy

The Importance of Life Stories

I have three main occupations (and many “sub-descriptive” occupations as well): First and foremost, I am a follower of Christ. God saved me from the pit of despair when I was just sixteen years old.  I am a sales associate. This is my day job that helps pay the bills and where I serve God the most.  Finally, I am a blogger and writer.  In writing, I have been made very aware of the power of stories—both fictional and real—in order to cultivate learning and more effective interactions with others.  Letting people share their stories and telling our own are both vital in cultivating more effective and fulfilling human interactions.  Here are some reasons why learning other people’s life stories are so important to effect better communication and interactions with others:

  1. It eliminates prejudicial attitudes.—A lot of people call racists and other prejudiced people “ignorant,” which I believe is a fitting term for them because they are often judging without knowing their targets’ stories. Although there are elements in some circles of feminism that I disagree with, one thing I like about almost all feminism, especially intersectional feminism, is that they take the time to learn about others’ stories, especially those that are often marginalized and shunned by society. If all of us (me included) would take more time to just get to know others better without prejudging them as “bad” in some way, we would probably discover that they are more like us than we realize. For instance, there were some people at work that at first irritated and angered me.  However, as time passed and I got to know them a little bit better, I realized not only did they have a lot of similarities to me, but there was a lot of pain and hurt in their life stories.  I know it is difficult (even for me), but as Rachel Scott said in one of her essays, “Code of Ethics” about not judging others and showing compassion, “ [D]id you ever ask them what their goal in life is, what kind of past they came from? Did they experience love; did they experience hurt; did you look into their soul and not just their appearance? Until you know them and not just their “type”, you have no right to shun them. You have not looked for their beauty, their good.”  (source: http://rachelschallenge.org/media/media_press_kit/Code_of_ethics.pdf)
  2. Knowing other people’s life stories cultivates a sense of understanding. –When we learn about other people’s goals, likes and dislikes, what kind of past they came from, and their experiences with love and hurt, we understand them better and are able to interact with them more effectively. For instance, before I knew one of my former pastors well, I did not trust him. In fact, because of his gregarious and upbeat personality, I assumed he “had it all together” and would not be able to relate to my problems and issues, or anyone else’s. However, when he told me part of his life story, I realized I had it all wrong.  I realized that he didn’t always have it all together.  I realized that because of what he had told me that he would indeed have great compassion of all that I had been through in life. I have realized that when I know a person’s life story better, I begin to understand what motivates their actions and why certain things bother them, or why certain things make them very happy.  If we took the time to get to know others better, it would not only eliminate wrong judgments, but we would be more understanding and compassionate of them because we know what they have been through.
  3. Getting to know other people’s stories adds value to them as a person.—When we listen as people tell us their stories or when we have a genuine interest in another’s life story, we show that we value them. We are, in essence, saying to them, “ I want to know more about you because you are that important to me. I want to understand you better because the stories you will tell are valuable to that purpose. Your story has value, and I can learn much from you.” We are also saying we respect them and what they have to offer when we have a genuine interest in learning about them.  For instance, if a good friend of yours confided in you about being abused in his or her past, when you listen to them without offering advice, but instead offer encouragement and just a listening ear, we are telling them, “I care about what happened to you, and you are not alone in this.”

This is why learning about others’ life stories is so important. It would eliminate much of the prejudice we see in this society; we would truly understand others’ motivations better and not just assume they are doing things just to be “mean” or “nasty” or out of selfish desires.  It also tells others that they are valuable and what they have to say is important. What are some important life stories you have learned that helped you understand someone or several people better? Please feel free to share in the comments, but please do NOT use people’s real names or specific details of a situation.

 

 

Why This Year Was The Best Yet

I can’t believe this year is almost over, and what a year it has been!  I am writing this, and it is about two and a half weeks from Christmas, but when you read this, it will probably be after Christmas.  I have learned so much about myself and others, both good and the things that need to be changed. Overall, this year, I have never experienced more joy and fulfillment during any other time in my life! Here is why, for me, this year has been the best yet and what I learned:

  1. I learned how to forgive and let go of the painful parts of my past.—Normally when people had hurt me deeply, I took a very long time to forgive them, mainly because I thought by holding on to my grudges I was exacting “vengeance” upon them by withholding my affection and love for them, and letting them “have a taste of their own medicine.” Then, after one of my pastors talked to me about being kind to someone who had hurt me deeply, I had an epiphany from God: I wasn’t really succeeding in changing or exacting the vengeance I wanted against the offending party or parties. I was only hurting myself and the people that loved me by holding these grudges, because I was also erecting barriers to my love for them unconsciously. I didn’t mean to, but I did anyway because the grudges that I held squeezed out all the love that I had for anyone, even the ones that didn’t do anything to offend me!  Moreover, the offending parties often weren’t even aware of how much they hurt me, or didn’t care. Then, when I let go of my grudges that I had for several people this year, I found that I was free to love not only them, but everyone else around me. I was more willing to take risks with them and others, because I knew that holding grudges and withholding affection was making me into a stingy, unforgiving, and miserable person to be around! I was also finally able to tell my mentor J about something relatively painful that happened to me in the past, and make peace with that painful event. Though I still wouldn’t trust the person that made that event painful, I forgive them and am not angry at them anymore.
  2. I became a member of my current church.—In October 2016, I felt God calling me to leave the church that I had been a part of for over ten years. I really loved the church, and I still keep in touch with and love the people that are still there. Then, I visited a couple of churches, one of them the one that I attend now.  At first, I wasn’t sure if God was calling me to stay or keep searching for other churches. However, each week, I kept going back to the church I attend now. I learned that the pastor there, Pastor David Shoaf, has served faithfully at my church for over 40 years, and that all the pastors and guest speakers that have ever spoken were very solid in the Bible and good at speaking. I especially like how Pastor Shoaf has taught the congregation to look in the mirror and thoroughly reflect upon our lives to make the necessary changes. I also love how the members of the church are willing to help those congregants in need or at least faithfully pray for them if they are unable to help.  On August 2017, I took a step of faith, and became a member of my current church.  I believe in what my church stands for, how they serve one another, and how they are striving to do their part to spread God’s love all over the world.
  3. I became closer to God as a result of His work in my life.—God has been shaping and molding me since the day I got saved. However, He has worked in and through me, especially this year. He has helped me to see things that I had never quite grasped or seen before. God has really opened my eyes to much of His wisdom. For instance, one of the reasons that I sometimes had problems with people at work, at home, and/or other places, is because of how I thought about a situation. Then, my Sunday school teacher recommended a book that really opened my eyes to my thought problems. It was called “Loving God With All Your Mind” by Elizabeth George. One of the things author Elizabeth George talked about was that love doesn’t think evil of anyone, which I was sinfully doing when I was upset at someone.  For example, when someone didn’t do something they promised me that they would, I had often thought that person was intentionally lying to me, or didn’t care about me. However, later I found out that because of some unforeseen circumstances, they couldn’t do what they had promised, even though they had every intention of carrying it out. Now, I am trying to be more intentional of not thinking badly about someone when they disappoint me or don’t act in the way that I expect.
  4. I am using my degree in college to show others God’s love for me.—I started my blog in 2015, but really wasn’t so intentional about posting regularly until either late last year, or early this year. This is also around the time when I joined a blogging group online, which has helped me not only to gain more visibility for my blog, but also to learn about other topics that I hadn’t yet explored in my life. Supporting other people’s blogs by reading, commenting, and/or following their content, has helped me learn about others and gain knowledge in more areas that I didn’t know would interest me—such as cooking and travel. I had a writing degree in college (after switching to it from a Biology degree my sophomore year of college) that lay mostly dormant for a long time, until these past two years.  This year, especially, God has helped me to use my writing abilities to show people His love and to inspire people to live a more joyful, fulfilling life, becoming all that they are meant to be. This is what I hope to accomplish these next years for this blog.

This year (2017) has been the best year yet of my life because I finally learned to forgive people that hurt me, both in my distant and recent past.  I became a member of my current church, and that helped me to become part of a community that has similar life purposes to me.  I have become closer to God as a result of His work in my life, and I am finally able to do something worthwhile with my writing abilities.  This, and I’m sure many other things as well, has made this one of the best (if not, The Best) years ever!

Top 10 Most Influential Life Teachers

According to Merriam-Webster, a life teacher, or what is more commonly known as a mentor, is “a trusted counselor or guide.” I have had the fortunate experience of having had many mentors throughout my life. I would love to be a mentor myself to others too.  Though I believe we can learn something from everyone, here are some life teachers that have profoundly shaped my life, besides God (Who has provided these teachers and therefore is the Ultimate Teacher, or Mentor) and some of what they taught me:

  1. My mom and dad—They have taught me so much about life, not only because they are my parents but also for the example that they give me. They have both taught me the value and rewards of hard work. They both emphasize and follow this ethic themselves. My mom has worked tirelessly serve her family, and my dad has worked many hours at his job to provide for his family. It was my dad who actually told me that it is better to try your very best and fail than to do moderately good, but the work you did was not your very best.  I try to apply that to my own life, especially at my job. Even when some of the people around me may not be up to doing their best work at my job all the time, I still strive to do my best because of my parents’ example and because I want to serve my God in the best way possible.
  2. J—Ever since I met her, she has been a great mentor to me. She taught me to stretch myself beyond what I ever thought was possible and believe in myself and the abilities that God has given to me. She also taught me how to overcome my fears and anxieties, and not be too comfortable with the norm, because “the norm” will never get one anywhere in life. When I wanted to give up on myself, J urged me on. For instance, when I didn’t think it was possible for me to get a good job, she helped and encouraged me to get the resources available to me in order to be able to find a job that suited my abilities and interests, which I never thought I’d be able to access.   Best of all, even when no one else had believed in me, she did!
  3. My friend Barbara*–I met Barbara at my previous church eleven years ago. Although we don’t get to see each other much anymore, she still has had a profound impact in my life. She helped me see things realistically, instead of just through my own emotional lenses, which often turns out to be wrong or distorted in ways. She taught me how to be a better Christian and how to trust God more. The lessons that she has taught me has helped me to resolve conflicts quicker and to get out of my own stubborn shell to be able to see things as they really are, instead of just through my distorted lens.
  4. My former pastor Frank Taylor—Pastor Frank became the pastor at my previous church seven years ago. Though he has since been called to a different church, the impact that he had on me while still at my previous church was profound. He was the pastor that first taught me the value of humility.  One example of him teaching this value to the congregation at the time was when people were complaining about him saying something that they felt was offensive. Many pastors I know would just profusely defend themselves and never apologize. Yes, Pastor Frank did also explain himself, but he almost immediately wrote a formal letter of apology to the congregation and asked for their forgiveness. Not a lot of people in his position of power I know would go to such lengths to apologize.  He also openly preaches about the struggles he has had in life, and how he learned from them, instead of trying to hide them from others.
  5. My current pastor David Shoaf—Pastor Shoaf, as he is often called, has also had a profound impact on my current life. He has also taught me important lessons on humility. Not only is he careful not to talk too much about himself, he also preaches in such a way that we can adequately reflect on what he is saying. He has said that he wants his messages to be such that people are forced to look in the mirror of their lives to make sure their lives are matching up with what they say they believe.  Not only are his messages always relevant to my life, but the way he lives also accentuates his messages!  He has faithfully served my current church for over 40 years!  In the way he lives, he has taught me gratitude (He profusely thanked us when we had a party in honor of him and his birthday this past summer.),  faithfulness (He has faithfully served this church for many years and has been married for about the same time as well.) ,  humility (He doesn’t like to draw too much attention to himself), and kindness (He always tries to get to know how people in the church are doing and tries to talk to each new guest that attends our church for the first time.).
  6. my manager Chris*–Although I have only known him for about a year and a half, he has taught me a lot about myself and life. In a previous post, I discuss some of the things he has taught me. See this link for more information. One of the other things that I didn’t emphasize in the previous post is that he has taught me patience and the value of service. He taught me through the good he has done for others that doing good is always worth it even if you don’t get rewarded right away. He has taught me to be less self-centered and more others-centered.  He has also taught me how to be patient.  Though I still struggle with patience, I have learned that I can wait for certain things and not be anxious about it. For instance, I needed to talk to one of my managers about something, but was told that I had to wait. Ordinarily, if it was even remotely important, I might be anywhere from slightly annoyed to throwing an anxious fit about it due to my anxiety issues! However, this time I was able to let it go and decided to talk to her about that thing the next time I see her.
  7. my friend Holly*–My friend Holly, though I haven’t met her in person, has taught me so much. One of the most important things she has taught me is the importance of validation. Validation is so lacking in this world, but she gives it like the food we need to eat. Her encouragement has gotten me through some pretty tough times in my life and has helped lifted me in times where I was depressed and despondent in life.  Through her, I have learned to judge less, and encourage and love more. I also learned from her that everyone has a story, and to have more compassion and love for those who may not have the same privileges that I do. She has further taught me not to take anything for granted.
  8. my current manager I—My current manager I has taught me, like my parents have, the value of hard work and dedication. She has also taught me the value of believing in others because she has believed in me. When other managers were simply too busy to teach me department manager stuff (no fault with them though), she took the time out of her busy schedule to teach me some things.  In that not only did I help her get some managerial things done, but she has helped me to know some of the things department managers have to do.
  9. My manager Tom*–My manager Tom has been a godsend to my company. For more information on him, see this. He has taught me the value of humor and of integrity. He doesn’t pretend to be someone who he’s not. For instance, when someone asks how he is doing, he won’t just mumble fine when he is feeling terrible, he will actually tell you that he feels terrible. This is not so you will feel sorry for him, but to show his genuine character. He also makes others laugh. For instance, he knew one time that I straighten the aisles very well, but joked to one of my other supervisors that I only do things “half-way.” I was there too, and when I heard him say it and pointed to him, he knew that I “got” his joke and he and I started laughing.
  10. My friend Laura*–My friend Laura has helped me through many things. She has taught me how to be generous and thoughtful to others. Every time it is my birthday and for Christmas, she sends me a card even when I forget to send one to her. She was also my teacher in school, and Laura has sacrificed eating her lunch at times to help students. She has a true servant’s heart, and through her example, has taught me to be more like her.

These are the life teachers that have shaped my life the most today. I have learned so much from all of these people, and I have learned some of the greatest life lessons from them. Who has taught you the most in your life? What have they taught you, and why is it so important to you? Please feel free to discuss in comments.

 

 

 

 

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

*=pseudonyms, not their real names to protect privacy

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)

Top 10 People That Inspire Me

While there are many people that have impacted my life in a positive way, these following ten people have inspired me the most. Each of these ten people has overcome some great trials in their lives. (For privacy reasons, some of their trials may not be mentioned). They have persevered when they felt like giving up or when there was no way out of their dire situation.  Some of them have had great personal struggles which they have or are working very hard to overcome.  So, without further ado, the top ten people that inspire me are (and why they inspire me):

  1. My mom—The more I learn about her, the stronger of a person I realize she is. Even though many people have hurt her in the past, she still tries to keep a positive attitude about life and perseveres through life’s challenges. She doesn’t just give up on people or relationships if she thinks that there is even a slight chance of reconciliation. My mom inspires me because she is still willing to help people and persevere in life even through the trials in her life. I cannot say that of too many people in society today.
  2. My dad—My dad inspires me because even though his work is often stressful and difficult, he still has a pretty positive attitude about life. He never slacks off in his job, and he is willing to sacrifice for the good of others. For instance, if a co-worker is going on vacation, he is more than willing to cover for him or her.
  3. Holly*–My online friend Holly has gone through some of the most challenging and horrific things a human being could face, but she is one of the sweetest, most caring, and validating people I know. Also, her perseverance to go on despite all the challenges that she has to face is amazing. I don’t even think I could go on if I had to face all the things that she has had to face. I am amazed by not only her care for others, but also her wisdom with words.  She is a great writer and a creative spirit.
  4. K—My other online friend is also amazing. Battling some tough things that could make anyone bitter, she determines to see the positive in life and not be held down by her disability or obstacles that stand in her way. She inspires me to also work hard and not to let the tough stuff of life hold me down.  Also, she is very humorous and is a fun person to be around.
  5. Frank Taylor—He is my former pastor, but he has had a great impact on my life. Sent to a boarding school when he was a teen, God took a hold of his life near the end of his tenure there. His life is a testament to the miracles God has worked in his life! Though he has had to go through some very difficult things, he still has a humble and gentle spirit about him.  He has taught me to a.) never judge people by their public appearances and b.) to be humble even if it costs you something.
  6. Chrissy—My friend Chrissy has had to go through her share of trials too, and like my mom, a lot of people have hurt and betrayed her. Despite this, she still has a heart to serve and love others. She is not swayed by appearances or flattery. She loves singing for God and once led a food pantry for the needy in our area.
  7. Ted*–My friend Ted has gone through a lot in the two years or so I have known him. Not only has he had to deal with some loss, but he has also had to work through severe physical pain. The fact that he still is willing to work through the pain and doesn’t keep calling off, shows not only a work ethic stamped with integrity but also an unselfish heart. In fact, he often helps other co-workers, including me, with the work we had to do, even when no one asks or requires him to.
  8. Rachel Joy Scott—My faith hero inspires me because of her great, positive impact on a large number of people in society. Even when others didn’t see hope in her killers, Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris, she reached out to them in love, trying to convince them that there was a better way. She also reached out to the friendless and the outcast in her school and didn’t bully anyone.
  9. Donald*—I met my mom’s friend’s son when he was just three years old, and he was very mischievous. However, he inspires me because God took a hold of his life, and uses his job and time to bless others and to share the love of Christ with others. Though he has gone through a lot, he loves like he has never been hurt and his passion and love for God are not abated.
  10. Jim–Before my friend Jim gave his life to Christ, he lived a very self-centered lifestyle. Now, he lives for God with all the passion, vigor, and love that his heart can muster. His prayers are powerful and effective because he uses his life to bless others. For instance, when he saw a book that could be useful for me, he bought it for me and didn’t expect anything back.  He inspires me because I, too, strive to love God and others and bless them in any way I can.

These are the ten people that inspire me to live life with more joy and gratitude than I have had before. Though each of these people has been through their share of suffering and pain, they have either overcome them already or are working to push through them.  Who inspires you? Why? Please feel free to discuss in the comments.

*=not their real names, pseudonym.

**=If anyone on the list wants me to add or delete anything on this list, please email me privately and I will do it. Thanks. 🙂

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/

 

 

Things I am Most Thankful For This Year

With the end of the year coming the end of next month and with five days until Thanksgiving, I thought it would be fitting to reflect on things that we are thankful for this year.  A lot has happened to me in this past year, both good and bad. Many things that I have experienced this year have served to better my character and bring me closer to God, and for that I am grateful for, too.  Although I am thankful for much more than I can probably compile in a list today, the following are the people, places, and things that I am most thankful for this year and why:

  1. God’s love for me—I believe God has shown me over and over again of His great love for me. He has not only saved my life about seventeen years ago,  but He has also never let me give up on life and showered me with blessings like family, friends, a full-time job, purpose, and the ability to relate to you today.  Sadly, I have only recently realized some of the amazing things that God has given to me.  I know I will never know the depth of His love to me, but even knowing a glimpse of it gives me much joy and fulfillment in life!
  2. My family and friends—My mom, dad, and brother have helped me throughout my life, and have served to help me understand God’s love better. I am now beginning to realize how much they have sacrificed for me and for all of us. My friends have also been a godsend to me.  I feel their support and their love on a daily basis as well. We have been there for each other, and I always learn something valuable from them that helped better me as a person and as a follower of Jesus.
  3. My church and everyone there—It has been over a year since I walked into the church which I am now a member. At first, I didn’t think I would be there as long as I have, but I am glad I am a member now.  The pastors have helped me dramatically improve the quality of my interactions with God and others. One of my pastors there helped me to be able to commune with God more effectively.  Another pastor helped me through a difficult time that I had with someone, and I gratefully report that this person and I get along pretty well these days!  If it had not been for God’s love and the people of my church, I don’t know where I would be today.
  4. My job as a sales associate—Even though I get stressed out sometimes, I can honestly say I find satisfaction in my job. I love interacting with co-workers and customers, and serving them as well. I love the challenge it gives me to be Christ-like to others and to do an overall good job. Although there have been times when I failed at my job, the successes and rewards outweigh them all.   I have learned so much from almost everyone I have interacted there, including and especially the management there.  I am beginning to see exactly why I am there and what my role is to be there—to show others the love that I have received and not to keep it to myself by serving others at my job and by striving for excellence.
  5. The ability to write—I love being able to write, and that God has given me this gift to be able to relate to others. (By the way, I write MUC H better than I speak!) I love being able to express myself in this way and encourage people with my words.
  6. My blogging community—I am thankful for you, the reader, who visit my blog. I also am part of an online community where I get to read and support other bloggers of different niches. This has helped me develop an interest in many different things, which has awakened me to explore more and develop almost a child-like curiosity. This curiosity has helped me gain purpose in life and healed me from depressive episodes that I had suffered earlier in my life.
  7. My brother’s cat—The first time I got to see his cat (virtually), I fell in love with him (the cat)! Although I am very allergic to cats, I can see he brings much joy and love to my brother.  I love that about this cat!

These are the things that I am most thankful for this year. Of course, I am thankful for many more things, but that could take years to write!  All these people, places, and things have helped bring me to the place where I am today in life.  And for that, I am very, very thankful. What are you most thankful for this year? Please feel free to discuss in the comments.