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Don’t Waste Your Life

One thing that COVID-19 has taught me, with the suddenness and the severity with which it could strike, is that we all have a limited time here on earth. 

Even pre-COVID times, I have been taught this lesson. I almost died in June 2014, because if I hadn’t gone to the ER when I did, my gall bladder would have burst. If that happened, I would not be here today!

As I have gotten older, I have realized that I have spent too much of my life angry and hurt.  I had spent too much time holding grudges and arguing with people who won’t even be there for my funeral! I spent too much of my life worrying about things that would be resolved within days of the incident or things that have no eternal impact at all. 

In 2020, I have observed people around me fall into similar patterns.  I see people against who they voted for in the last election. Mind you, many of them are not arguing with close family members or friends who they see often, but people gone from their in-person life, or someone who they haven’t seen in twenty or so years.   I’ve seen people arguing with a store employee who they probably don’t have to deal with on a daily basis about rights and mask wearing.  I’ve known people who have lost sleep over things that were resolved within days of the incident.  

If we do things like I have observed from various people this year and like I have done when I was younger, then we are wasting our lives! No one will say on their death bed, “ I wish I had spent more time arguing with person X about xyz.” On their death bed, no one will care about whether a particular store requires us to wear a mask or not.  We will not be concerned with work-related stresses or, on the other hand, anything related to entertainment, such as how a favorite team is performing.  

Most people will think about what they had wish they had done differently in life, whether it is how they treated people or opportunities they wish they had taken.  They will want more time to make things right in their world, but at the same time, regretting that they hadn’t used the time they were given more wisely. 

Don’t let that be you. Don’t waste your life! 

Ask yourself when you are tempted to get in a heated debate with someone: Will that person even be in my life a year from now? Is that person even in my daily in-person life today? When I die, will the person be there for my funeral? If the answer is “No,” disengage and walk away from the conversation. 

Spend time with people who are supportive of you. Minister to those around you. Smile at a person who is having a rough day, and encourage their soul.  Be determined to be a peacemaker and a life saver in someone’s life today. 

Ask yourself when you are worried about something: Will this even matter a year from now? Does this situation have eternal significance?  If not, QUIT worrying about it!  Also, remember what it says in Isaiah 26:3 (KJV), “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee,” and Romans 8:28 (KJV), “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” In other words, God will give you peace when you give your worries to Him and trust that He will bring you through the situation for our good and His glory. 

When we begin to have an eternal perspective on things and live like it could be our last days on earth, not only will we most likely have more joy in our lives, but our lives will never be wasted!

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It’s Okay to Be Mad at God

Suffering is extremely difficult. There’s a lot of emotion involved, and that’s 100% okay. I’ve found myself mad at God before, and I’m sure you can relate.

There are some Christians (including pastors) who say it’s a sin to be mad at God. When I hear this, I always want to ask: Have you ever read the Psalms? The Israelites obviously had no problem expressing themselves to God. The psalmists laid themselves bare, so to speak, before God. They didn’t have a filter. And they didn’t expect God to be angry with them. It was just a natural expression of their faith.

So no, I don’t think it’s necessarily a sin to be mad at God. Maybe it reaches sin if you’re just blatantly cursing out of a hateful heart (although I’m still convinced God would rather people yell honestly at him as opposed to being afraid to say anything to him). But a child of God laying his or her heart bare before the Lord? I think God loves that. Jesus said anyone who comes to him he will never cast out.

I pray that laying it all out with complete honesty, just like the psalms, would become commonplace and natural to our faith.

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A Message to Those with Chronic Pain and Those Who Know Someone with Chronic Pain

People, whether on the outside or inside, often see the chronically ill on their good days and ask,
“Can’t you *insert thing they can’t do*?” They don’t mean such things harshly: they know
that those of us that have had to, say, give up traditional jobs miss the identity and socialization
that came with working those jobs and that some of us even liked those positions!

But what they don’t see are the bad days, which generally outweigh the good. They don’t see the
weeks on the couch, the endless days of migraines, the turbulent bipolar mood swings and
debilitating anxiety. They don’t realize that, in truth, those of us that aren’t working due to a
chronic illness really cannot work.

People often think that because their friend or family member spent one day with them at the
beach or out shopping that all their days look like the fun one they shared. But the harsh reality is
that most of them do not.

And that’s where understanding tends to fail. Many struggle with understanding how
someone can appear happy and healthy every time they see that person, while claiming to feel ill
most, or all, of the time. And this lack of understanding sheds light on some things we in the
chronically ill community need to stop doing.

 

1.) STOP always putting on a brave face.

There are most certainly times that a brave face and smile are necessary, but those
of us with chronic illness have allowed “faking being well” to seize control of our lives.
Not only does that give others the impression that we really can handle more than we say
we can, but it also taxes us to the point that our alone time is spent feeling even more
miserable than we may have if we’d allowed ourselves to simply be in the presence of
others.

The lesson? Be vulnerable. Don’t feel that you must always fake it and smile for
people. It’s okay if someone realizes you don’t feel well. And if they take it badly? That’s
on them.

2.) STOP always saying that you’re “okay.”

I finally came to a point where I wouldn’t say I was “great!” when asked how I
was doing, but too often, I still say that “I’m okay.” Yet, that is often a lie.

The lesson? If you don’t feel well, say so! Not for sympathy, but if someone
asks, “How have you been?” you are well within your right to say, “Ya know, the last
couple days have been rough on my health. Thank you for asking.” And if the person to
whom you’re speaking prays, adding in a request for prayer is good!

 

3.) STOP always being ashamed.

It took a long time for me to be even somewhat tolerant of the idea that my doctor
deemed it best I be on disability, and the negativity I’ve met along the way hasn’t
helped things. But there should be no shame. God designed us all differently, all with
different skill sets, and all with different plans regarding how we are to use those skills.

The lesson? Be okay with not being able to work as much or at all as you once did
or once dreamed you could. God’s paths for our lives often look nothing like the courses
we had plotted.

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.”
~ Isaiah 55:8-9 (KJV)

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Things That Bring Me Joy When I’m Upset or Anxious

Though I have battled depression and anxiety for much of my life, recently there have been more blessings God has put in my life that have brought me joy when I had been upset and anxious about a situation.  If anyone here struggles similarly with anxiety and stress, maybe you can relate with me on these things that bring joy after you experience something stressful or anxiety-provoking, or you may have other things that bring you joy. No matter what it is, I hope that God brings you things that will produce joy or will at least alleviate your stress or anxiety. Here are some things that bring me joy when I am upset or anxious:

  1. People who demonstrate they care—I am so blessed by the people who didn’t just stare at me or judge me for my anxiety-produced autistic meltdowns. Instead, they tried to help calm me down and find a solution to the stressful situation. They understand that I have been overloaded by stimulation from all sides (a common trait for those on the spectrum like me) and need compassion.  I hope to care for others similarly when I see someone that is visibly upset and/or stressed.
  2. God’s grace and mercy in the situation– When people yell at me, I sometimes fear that I’ll get in trouble, even if I didn’t do anything wrong. However, what often happens is that God brings situations and people into my life that demonstrate His mercy and grace. For instance, a couple days ago a customer yelled at me for something someone else did, and it caused me much anxiety and grief because the day was already stressful for various reasons. However, the next day, an associate told me that he or a manager would be there for me if a customer made me feel uncomfortable or unsafe.  His comment made me aware that God had a hand in this situation and He would always provide me the grace needed to deal with anything.
  3. People who motivate me to persevere— When I have gotten stressed at work or in other situations, my temptation (as I know some of you can relate) is to quit and give up. However, because of my dad, my mentor, and others who believe in me and motivate me to persevere, I have found great joy in finally being able to accomplish some of what I believe God has made me to do.
  4. Realizing what I have–As I said in an earlier post, gratitude can alleviate and even kill depression, bringing much joy. Reflecting with thanksgiving for all God has brought me through and blessed me with makes me so happy. After I was a little upset one day, I found an associate wanting to buy snacks for our entire department. Because of this associate’s thoughtfulness, my anger completely dissipated and I focused on the blessing of what God provided through this thoughtful associate.
  5. A resolution to the situation making me upset or anxious–About six or seven months ago, I was so upset at how I was being treated in comparison to another person that I almost got myself in trouble. However, a few weeks later, that person became kinder and much friendlier towards me. It was then that I realized that I should probably forgive this person and let go of my anger. That resolution brought me much peace–and joy, of course.
  6. Music that comforts my soul—No, I cannot listen to “happy” music when I am upset. It annoys and upsets me even more. However, music that speaks to my stress and assures me that God can use even that situation for good brings me joy.
  7. Hope that it’s not always going to be like this—Yesterday, I was tempted to call out from work because of how upset and stressed I was the day before. However, a.) I was already at work, so I didn’t feel like wasting time going back at home, and b.) I had hope that things would not be as stressful as they were before. That hope enabled me to complete my shift as scheduled and I even enjoyed being at work that day!
  8. People who make me laugh—I have had a couple coworkers who are master comedians. They make me laugh so easily that even when I’m upset, their jokes never fail to bring me joy.
  9. Seeing someone I have missed who I haven’t seen in a while—Sometimes, during the most stressful situations in my life, I see people that I haven’t seen in a while. The joy that person brought to me in the past and the joy of seeing them at that moment makes me forget about my stress.
  10. Taking a rest or nap, and feeling refreshed the next day or week—If all else fails, I take a nice, warm shower and go directly to bed. Sometimes, having adequate rest–not too little or too much—can clear my mind and enable me to look at things from a more positive perspective.

I have learned that there are many ways that God brings us joy again after we have “suffered a little while.” Life’s difficulties can sometimes be what truly produces joy in us. With God’s grace and mercy, we will find it. Don’t give up!

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Express Yourself to God–Even If It’s Anger

The following is an excerpt from my new book 20 Encouragements for the Depressed Christian https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B089KVKTCX/

 

I became a Christian when I first started dealing with depression. I didn’t know where else to turn with my pain, so I started crying out to God. And God took me in and began changing me.

Thus, my first few years trying to deal with depression were my first few years trying to understand God. Unfortunately, I had this notion that there are certain emotions you don’t express to God because, well, He’s God. That included anger, despondency, and anxiety. God is holy and anger is sin—right? So I can’t bring that to God. He’d be mad at me.

The result was I kept many emotions inside. I didn’t express them to God because that would be sin, and I didn’t express them to other people because that would be sin. But, of course, this only made everything worse.

There’s this notion within evangelicalism that we can only tell God certain things. We’re given blanket statements that anxiety, depression, and anger are sins. (Prominent theologian John Piper once said, “It is never, ever, ever, right to be angry with God.”[ii] Suffice to say, I disagree.) Thus, when we feel these emotions (and everybody does), we assume we can’t express them to God. He’d be mad if we did.

One of the first things my therapist had me do when I began depression/anxiety therapy was to read Psalms and to journal honest prayers to God. It was exactly what I needed. I began to see in the Psalms that expressing oneself openly to God is completely okay. Indeed, God seems to encourage it (Jesus quotes a Psalm on the cross). The psalmists do not expect harsh judgment for speaking honestly with God. On the contrary, they expect God to be closer to them when they talk openly.

I realized after a while that my journaling had brought me much closer to God, even though I expressed many negative emotions to Him. And through the years, over and over again I see that God is not displeased when His people express frustration or anger at Him. In Jeremiah 15:18, Jeremiah asks God, “Why is my pain unending and my wound grievous and incurable? You are to me like a deceptive brook, like a spring that fails.” And God’s response, instead of anger, is reassurance: “If you repent, I will restore you that you may serve me; if you utter worthy, not worthless, words, you will be my spokesman…I will make you a wall to this people, a fortified wall of bronze; they will fight against you but will not overcome you, for I am with you to rescue and save you” (Jeremiah 15:19-20). Paul asks God to take away the thorn in his flesh (implying frustration, anxiety, and pain, at the least—feelings that could be construed as failing to trust God), and God responds again with reassurance, not anger. Most importantly, Jesus models for us how to interact with God: He doesn’t hold back negative emotions. He quotes Psalm 22 on the cross: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” And the night before His death, He prays in anguish for God to “take this cup from me” (Luke 22:42).

I suspect other Christians with anxiety and depression have had this problem of expressing themselves to God. We’ve been exposed to bad teaching that treats sin as a list of “Thou shalt nots.” Thus, when we feel certain “unpermitted” emotions, we think we’re bad people. But that’s not true at all. In fact, this is exactly the kind of teaching that Jesus was so opposed to. Throughout the Gospels, He criticizes the Pharisees for treating the Law as a list of Do’s and Don’ts, when all along God meant for the Law to be wisdom that benefits His people and draws them closer to Him. That’s why it was okay when David ate the consecrated bread (1 Samuel 21). That’s why it was okay for Jesus’ disciples to pick and eat heads of grain on the Sabbath (Matthew 12:1).

What John Piper and some other preachers seem to misunderstand is that sin is a heart issue—it’s not just doing or feeling something from the forbidden list. So yes, there is an anger at God that is sin—if it comes from a heart antagonistic to God. But if anger at God comes from a place of wanting to understand, of loving God but being confused and frustrated, then it seems to me that God is perfectly okay with it. And no matter what, God wants us to express ourselves to Him. That’s how we grow closer to Him.

 

Piper, John. “It Is Never Right to Be Angry with God.” DesiringGod, 13 Nov. 2000, https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/it-is-never-right-to-be-angry-with-god. Accessed 18 April 2020.

 

W.R. Harris is the founder and owner of Persevering Hope. He is the author of seven books. You can check out his author website here: http://wrhwriting.com/

 

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How We Can Become Stronger Through the Pandemic

There is a lot of fear, panic, anger, sadness, and depression in the world today due to the COVID-19 pandemic. I understand that. But what if God is using this pandemic in order to strengthen us and not just make us “suffer,” as some may think? What if, instead of fearing the worst that can happen to our families and friends, we could rely on God’s comfort, presence, and power to help us to get through each day without paralyzing fear? What if, instead of getting angry at the inconveniences that the pandemic has caused in our lives, we learn to live with it and make the best of it? And what if we could take the time to mourn those we have lost, without fear of ridicule or judgment? What if we could treat our fellow human beings with more love and compassion than ever before? I believe we can, if we trust God to help us.

I have been grieved by all the politicized vitriol surrounding the pandemic, especially here in the U.S., because it points to our society’s inability to come together in unity. One of the customers that I talked to recently told me, “We are all in this together.” That is certainly true, but some people act like only their view is right and that those who have differing views are somehow immoral and/or inferior to them. In order for us to become stronger through the pandemic, we need to be respectful of people’s beliefs surrounding it. For instance, if you believe that people should stay at home except to shop for essentials and that they should wear a face mask in public, you should not chastise the people who for some reason can’t wear a face mask or who must go out to shop for certain items. On the flip side, those who are not as concerned about the pandemic should not chastise the people who believe that staying at home and not going out too much is the best option. We must remember that each person is an image bearer of God, and that they have needs and dreams, just as we do. They are feeling the effects of the pandemic, just as we are. Be open to others’ views by treating those with whom you disagree with grace. 

Many people have legitimate fears about the pandemic. If you are one of the people working as an “essential worker,” as I am, you may worry that all the people you come in contact with at your job could cause you to unknowingly pass on the virus to your family or those with whom you live. You may worry about finances if you are unemployed right now and may worry about not being able to pay bills on time.  

In Jeremiah 29:11 (NKJV), it says, “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.”  Know that whatever is happening in your life right now, that God is using that for your good somehow (Romans 8:28).  What you are going through in your life right now may not seem “good” or “hopeful,” but know that God will use the icky parts of our lives to either teach us something we will use in our future or lead us to a better future. We can ease those fears, at least a little bit, by trusting that God will protect us and provide for us.  

Another way we can become stronger–emotionally and mentally–through this pandemic is not getting so upset at all the inconveniences caused by it. One of the things that really gets people upset is having to wear face masks in public. They say they can’t breathe in them (I understand their concern); it forfeits their “rights” (I am baffled by that one), and they are allergic to the kind of masks they are wearing (there are different kinds of masks you can wear). If you are one of the people who have significant trouble breathing through a mask, ask your doctor to recommend a face shield that can function as a mask or some other alternative so that breathing won’t be so difficult. For those that just don’t want to wear a mask, know that complaining about wearing one or refusing to wear one will not alleviate the inconvenience. For one thing, if wearing a mask is required where you live, you could be fined for refusing to wear one! 

Also, please be patient. I have noticed certain things take a little bit longer because of the backlog caused by the pandemic and certain businesses not being able to open. Do not yell at an essential worker if you have to wait longer for an item, or if the item is out of stock. This is not an issue with that worker, and may be an issue with the supplier/manufacturer of the item not being able to make the particular item at the rate of demand. If you have to wait longer for an item, it may be because of inadequate staffing to meet demand. Again, the worker is only one person. Unless you find a way to clone them, they cannot do five people’s jobs. 

When we unite as children of God and as a society to get through this pandemic together, we will grow stronger in faith and character. Then, we will realize that we are all in this world together, and we will all lead others to know the love and power of Christ by our care and compassion.

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Momentary Troubles, Eternal Glory

“For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.” – 2 Corinthians 4:17

“I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” – Romans 8:18

 

I consider these two verses to be perhaps the most comforting verses for a suffering person. Our current troubles don’t feel “light.” They didn’t to Paul, and they don’t to us. But believers in Christ have the greatest joy just ahead: we get to be with God in His kingdom forever.

Let us remember that when we’re suffering. Our suffering is temporary. For the believer, suffering always has an end. For the believer, joy in Christ has no end.

Persevere, persevere, persevere—even through the worst of times. Let us say with Paul that it will be so worth it.

 

W.R. Harris is the founder and owner of Persevering Hope. He is an author who has written six books to date. You can check out his author website here: http://wrhwriting.com/

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Our Illusion, God’s Reality

“We can make our plans, but the LORD determines our steps.”

–Proverbs 16:9 (NLT)

 

As human beings, we plan and prepare for many things in our lives: school assignments, which college to attend, what to major in, where to get a job. We plan weddings and birthday parties and funerals. Even our days are planned: when to have time with the Lord, when and what to cook (or order) for dinner, when to go to bed. In fact, upon scrutiny, we can see that we plan just about everything. Granted, maybe not all of it will go exactly according to plan, but most of the things we plan will. Right? We certainly expect good outcomes.

 

The issue we come upon is one of having a sense of control. Most of us have been through enough to know that we don’t have absolute control, and many of us know, on an intellectual level, that we do not have any control, truly. But everyone falls into that trap of thinking that the control for which we grasp is something we can, in reality, obtain. Even people that have had their plans so seriously derailed that they know on a heart-level that, as humans, we have no control, can slip into a mindset of having some form of control.

 

However, Proverbs 16:9 makes it extremely clear that our illusion is God’s reality, that, while we plan things, God is the one in control. No more. No less. The end. Period.

 

And that? Is great news. Especially as our country, our world, faces a pandemic unlike anything we’ve seen in our lifetimes. It’s scary—the media outlets don’t help, nor does social media. We’re all being encouraged to social distance. We can’t go to our church building on Sundays. And yet, in all this, God. Is. In. Control. God is King and He is on His throne.

 

What does this mean for us? It means to, yes, take precautions, but more importantly, to remember that God hasn’t stepped off His throne during this pandemic. In the Bible, we are actually told that our Earth, our home, is merely God’s footstool (Isaiah 66:1). God hasn’t left us and He won’t (Deuteronomy 31:6, Hebrews 13:5). He knows what is happening and what’s going to happen, and He tells us not to worry about tomorrow—in essence, today has plenty of trouble to deal with all on its own. Don’t go adding on more trouble that you may not even have to deal with (Matthew 6:34).

 

At first blush, not having any control sounds horrible, but given a second look, we realize that having an all­-knowing, all-powerful God in control of things, Who is working everything together for our good (Romans 8:28), is far better than anything we frail humans could manage.

 

 

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Living In Fear–My Journey Out

I have lived in some fear for most of my life. Even back to my elementary school days, I was chided by teachers and peers alike for “worrying too much.” I had severe OCD in my early teen years. Later, some of my anxiety sometimes turned into paranoia. My senior year of high school I was dubbed “most paranoid” by my graduating class.

But God has rescued me out of many of my fears. Yes, He is the same God that said “Do not fear” numerous times in the Bible.

I recovered from my severe OCD with medication and by slowly trying to reduce the time I spent on my nonsensical rituals. Now, many years later, I barely even remember what the rituals were! God used people and situations in my life to help me combat the devil’s lies that not doing the rituals would bring me “bad luck”. (Yes, I actually believed that “bad luck” deal!) God helped me realize that not doing the nonsensical rituals actually freed me to be joyful and to do what He wanted me to do with my life.

I also used to be so afraid what people would think of me if they found out that I was on the autistic spectrum. I tried to hide my struggles from the outside world even before I realized I was on the spectrum. I was taught by my parents, my culture, and the community around me to not tell anyone about my “dirty laundry.” I know they all meant well—they did not want to further expose me to becoming prey to unscrupulous people who may have wanted to take advantage of my openness. However, I also felt alone and powerless to fight the battles that still raged on in my heart long after the visible symptoms of the struggles had passed. When the Spirit impressed upon my heart to write about my struggles, I expected people to judge and even reject me, but, at that point, I did not care. I knew God wanted to use me to bring hope to others struggling similarly. When I started writing about my struggles, something amazing happened! Not only did God use me in His amazing way, but I also found that most people found my vulnerability refreshing. It opened up a way for them to share their own struggles and find acceptance and camaraderie with those struggling similarly, including myself.

Sometimes, I would also be afraid of certain people, as when an abuse survivor sees his or her abuser in close proximity after going “no contact” for a long time. This probably stems from an incident where a teacher growled at me and acted threateningly to me when I ran from him in fear. I still fear people when they yell at me because of this, but thankfully my fear abates within hours, or only a couple days at most. God has infused the power of forgiveness and redemption to quell my fears of people yelling at me or hurting me. He has taught me (and continues to teach me) the power of releasing bitterness and replacing it with mercy, compassion, and grace.

When I was in school, I used to worry about many things–for example, whether I would pass a test or quiz, or if I would get in trouble for something that I may have said or done. Sometimes, I would lie awake for a long time worrying about these things. What I learned was that my worries and fears either never came to pass at all or it wasn’t as bad as I imagined. I still struggle with this sometimes, but one major way God has helped me is redirecting my focus from my circumstances and the “what-ifs” (like what if I don’t pass that test….or what if I get laid off or fired from my job?) to His sovereignty and goodness. Now, I am learning how to say, “Even if I don’t pass the test, God will give me a second chance. Even if I get laid off, God will provide me another job. Even if I get COVID-19, God will use my illness to glorify Himself and bring about good in my life.” This has quelled my fears about COVID-19 significantly, and has helped me to trust God’s sovereignty and goodness in my life, no matter what happens.

Almost everyone I know has at least one fear, even if they don’t readily acknowledge it. It’s normal, but when fear starts to paralyze your joy and freedom in life, then it needs to leave. With God’s help, you can conquer your fears and experience the joy and freedom He has for you.

 

This post was originally published on Patricia’s blog: https://placeinthisworld224.wordpress.com/2020/04/16/living-in-fear-my-journey-out/

About Patricia Go:

My name is Patricia A. Go, and my love of writing started when I was just eight years old, when I remember writing little stories on cut-up pieces of construction paper stapled together. I have been actively involved with various church ministries for about fifteen years. I have volunteered at a church’s food pantry and health clinic. I started my blog on December 23, 2015. God’s Whisperings is a blog that started out as wanting to share with others lessons that I learned about what God had been teaching me through various situations in my life, and quickly became, for me, a catalyst to bring people God’s love, hope, and joy through what I have learned in life. I work full-time at a job that has nothing to do with writing, but I love it and consider it a ministry. Also, God uses the situations I find myself in at my day job to teach me lessons, many of which I share in my blog, at http://placeinthisworld224.wordpress.com