Friday, May 27, 2016

Learning to Breathe a breath at a time...

  Be still and know that I am God- Psalm 46:10

It's been awhile since my last entry,  these couple of days were a roller coaster, many ups and downs. These last couple of months have been heavy in reflection on learning to be still. While there were blessings coming in my life, there were some moments where hope was nothing more than a concept in my mind trying to reassure myself that there was logic to God and his blessings or miracles of which I had heard. Yet, that mere thought was insulting to God's power, as he can make many things happen in our lives. The things that he can make happen take time and patience, his time and our need to develop patience. 


I found myself about three months ago questioning my job, my second twelve step from Celebrate Recovery, my relationship with my boyfriend and some of my close friendships that I've had for years. I was getting up and going to work, lacking enthusiasm, lacking energy and just wanting to do what I needed to do and leave as soon as the day was over.  However, it all left me questioning why I was so perplexed with my staggering situation, why did I feel so disconnected, so alone, lacking growth and lacking zest for life.   

I knew for sure my passion for work was over, I was a vendor on-site with the #1 high tech company of Silicon Valley, and yet I managed to plateau. This was interesting to me, that I managed to plateau where I thought I would grow more as a professional. I was not challenged as a professional, or in the personal, and I had reached out numerous times to my manager asking for challenging and complex projects. My work became very routine, I could do certain volumes by a given point, process things knowing the procedures by heart and be done with most of my workload before noon time. I knew early this year that I was plateauing, and I knew this was going to be a challenge because I dislike not growing and not being able to go to the next level. I started to realized that I would need to start talking to God about this uncertainty.

Sure enough within a couple of weeks after the new year, my work started changing, but for the worse. Since I was able to do high volume, my employer was giving me high volume work, not complex just more work. More work meant more hours, and more hours meant I was more tired. I started to lag in my 12 step, was disconnected in my relationship and completely fell off sight with old friendships. My new Christian friendships understood, they would pray with me (and continued to do so to this day), that these challenges were arising for some reason and purpose. Bottom line, I started to see a blur of boundaries between my personal and professional life, I had no work life balance. 

I was not living, I was just existing. I had forgotten to live my life, and was just focused on making the client happy and it was costing a heavy price. During these last months, I enrolled into two bible studies which I was unable to complete, for one I never showed up and for the second one I was only able to show up once. In my relationship I was not connected I was always "busy" or "tired" , in my 12 step I was just going through the motions. I had not journaled, was not painting, or creating. I stopped going to the gym or doing my walks at lunch at work. The pressure was getting to me, how could I not be happy with the #1 company in Silicon Valley, this is and was the company that inspired the area, and the most challenging place to get in to develop a career. But the reality was hitting me, it was possible that I was not meant to be here all along. After all I prayed for what I wanted, not for what God's will was for me.

With all the stress and challenges, I felt that I might need something a little slow pace (I've always been into working out heavy cardio, so I'm use to fast pace). I sat and prayed to God for some enlightenment, and found therapeutic yoga classes, and decided to enroll. That first class was very memorable as the instructor pointed out something to me that was real and was alas very Godly "You've never slowed down before, right? You're deep breathing is off, you are breathing heavily, try to breathe deep and slow, this is not a heavy cardio class." At that moment I knew what she meant and why I was there, I was learning to be still, to slow down, to breathe.

Breathe, I learned how to breathe, how to take a deep breath and slowly but surely exhale letting all my worries and frustrations out with that one exhale, feeling my lungs expand and shrink. Learning to breathe allowed me to also learn to not put so much on myself, but to be still and learn to be patient as God develops at his own timing his will for my life and not my own will anymore. 

"The biggest challenge within our human life is to learn to be patient and wait for God's timing in everything and anything on which we have developed  our hope. The next challenge is to ask God willingly to do his will in our life not our own, and that is where I found myself, asking for his will in my life, specifically in my career path." 

In the past when I found myself ending an assignment or plateauing, I would sit on my laptop, and submit applications everywhere, trying to ensure that I would have a new job lined up. I would sometimes stay up all night till 2 or 3am, ensuring to fill out the application entirely. This time, I did not want to do that, I did not have the energy. I did have the will to ask God for guidance, and for his will not my own. I was learning to be still and allowing God to do his job instead of me doing it for him.

Be still, learn to see the clouds again coming apart like cotton candy, to capture the vivid colors of the blood red roses in bloom, to close my eyes and just listen to the sound of the birds chirping as they have a conversation,  or listening to the squirrel running on the dirt collecting fruits and nuts. Live the moment and see the sun set leaving the sky on fire with blazing colors of fuchsia, amber, red, violet and twilight blue. Be still and know that God is in the works, all I need to do is ask him for favor and his will on my life and not my own desires but his and his designed purpose(s) for my life.

About a month ago, I got contacted by a recruiter from a staffing agency. I was a bit surprised because I had applied with the staffing agency more than once, and was never placed in an assignment or regular position. I was contacted based on my previous work experience (food processing) and my current skills. At first I was not sure whether or not to move forward with interviews, but after much reflection (and prayer), I figured I had nothing to lose. I went through the first interview, second interview and a final interview, with the CEO. This left me memorized because during our interview I realized something, God had opened a door for me, and he had answered my prayer. The CEO said something that struck me inside, she said "How long have you been praying for this job?" I knew there that this was God's work, and all I needed to do is be still and know that he was doing his will for my future.

The best feeling in the world is knowing you are doing your job, trying to live your life realizing you can do more but instead of jumping off the walls, learning for once to be still and know that HE is God and HE knows best. Then suddenly things change because prayers are being answered. I was literally minding my business, and someone knocked on my door because they saw my potential and talent, for once I was not the one banging on the door trying to get in, the door was opened for me for opportunity of professional growth, personal change and to make a difference. 

This has been my Aha moment...

Friday, May 13, 2016

Grace to Katrina...

1 John 4:20 -21
Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God whom they have not seen. And he was given us a command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sisters

Disclosure: The names of the businesses and people have been changed to protect their identities.  This is a experience being share by a dear friend which illustrates the strength and hope found at the end of the situation.

Situation

I was in a situation once at a previous work place, there was this one co-worker who I could not get along with. However it did not start that way, it took time for the animosity to develop...

The first time I recall meeting Katrina was after she had returned from her leave of absence to Raptor Affiliated Co. She was suppose to be back a week prior to train me  in  my new role, but ended up arriving a week and a half later. But once she arrived she seemed sweet, friendly, and helpful, at least that was the first impression.

Our first interactions were quite friendly and she was very welcoming. Gradually with time, Katrina became verbally abusive and less cordial. I had take a position which one of her close friends had left, and one which Katrina had fulfilled a few years prior, and I was able to manage the pressure better than she had (that was the feedback I got from co-workers and management). With time she became passive aggressive, making comments about my appearance, the way I talked, and even the food I ate. One comment that stayed with me, was when I was eating a burger, and she said "What is that smell, it smells like dog food!", mind you, I was eating Burger King, therefore it was beyond my understanding why she would make suck remark.

I felt unsupported. I stayed strong and focused. I continued with the verbal abuse for a year, tried talking to my manager and she had some talks with her but nothing changed.

The Incidents 

It was June 11, 2010 a hot summer afternoon during the peak of harvest season. Many employees were arriving to the office, collecting their weekly paycheck amongst other requests. The phone was ringing constantly and I had to answer phone calls and greet people.

The phone started ringing, two different calls, one from a partner for the business and another from an employee. I had put both calls on hold, each wanting something different, the partner wanted to talk to my manger who was in a meeting, but he was willing to wait, the employee wanted to talk to my manager as well, but he wanted to talk ASAP. Then came a group of 5 employees, collecting checks for the week, I helped them out, came back to the calls, and one had hung up, the other was waiting. However, I had forgotten who was on the line, when I answered it was the partner, and he just didn't hold back. He stated "You need to learn how to do your job better, you are incompetent, and it shouldn't take you this long to transfer me to your manager!" Then he hung up.

I turned to Katrina and asked for help, to which she stated "Five years ago when I was working that position, I did everything on my own, I never had help" with this statement I knew two things, she was not going to lift a finger, and the partner was livid with me. I blanked out, walked out of the office and started to hyperventilate, cry, gasping for air, and couldn't form a sentence or say a word, I kept looking around and continued crying. I was having my first panic attack.


After my panic attack I talked to my manager, she asked what happened, and I denied the tension. I already knew that she would take Katrina's side, and I didn't want more tension. I put up a good fight,  still did my best and put a strong face. It would be a temporary fix to the situation.  I filed for worker compensation  for work related stress in December 20, 2010, and returned until February 14, 2011. I went through therapy for 4 months, and developed anxiety and depression as well as lack of confidence. Every time that my manager wanted to have a meeting I felt panic because I knew it was negative feedback.

Root of the Issues

At the time I did not know it was a panic attack, but what I did know was that Katrina did not like me nor could she stand me. During the time that I was working with her (3.5 years), I found out the following:

  • Insecurities- Katrina was always comparing herself to others, wearing Juicy Couture, carrying Coach purses, Louis Vitton, and Michael Kors to make up for her lack of confidence. 
  • Unhappy- She was unhappy with her circumstances, she married young (she was 29.5 years old when I met her, she married at 23), childless, her husband was a harvester worker (she thought it was a low job), and she never saw the blessings she had in her life.
  • Bitter- When someone would announce that they were expecting, getting married, or having a life changing event, venom would be spilling out of her, trying to belittle the events and those being blessed around her. 
  • Resentful- Always wanting to be on top and would hate anyone that did better than her. Katrina was very competitive to obtaining attention (even though she was married, she wanted to be the fairest of them all!). Could not stand someone complimenting her co-workers. 
  • Prideful- Would talk down to harvester workers and to other co-workers. Always putting herself above others and in her world only her feelings and needs mattered. Anyone that would make her feel inferior she would try to break their spirit. At one point it became an issue to her that I was trying to earn my degree and she felt challenged. 
Overall, Katrina was hurting, and people that hurt go around hurting others such as family friends or people at close proximity. Of course, I was extremely close since I was the new kid on the block taking on her old job and working with her on a daily basis.

With all the incidents, backstabbing, lack of support, I hated her, I would ponder on how to hurt her, and ways to make her feel worse (because I was made feel like I was nothing). There were times that the thought of breaking her windshield or slashing her tires came to mind. I never acted upon it, but wow the power I felt just thinking and plotting on it.

Door is Wide Open, and I'm pushed out...

After so much tension, I left my position with the company, I felt very resentful and hurt. After 3.5 years of service, Katrina found a way to get me out of the office. There was not true grounds to terminate me, and I was caught in a place where I had no support.

I had lost my focus and forgot my worth. I had been broken down and pulled apart, and finally I was shown the door. On August 24, 2012 I left with severance pay, a box with some belongings and the humiliation of being escorted out of the office passing by my co-workers. Some looking at me with disbelief, some feeling sorry for me and some looking down because they felt embarrassed for me. They knew that my feud with Katrina was what pushed me out of there. 


Grace...

Looking back I see why I was removed from there, after my departure politics, feuds and differences tore the business apart. Partners started leaving and the supporting sister company pulled away looking for new investors. I was still bitter, and anytime I would think of my then co-worker, I felt my blood boil. I hated her and wished for her to suffer the worse type of inferno that  could be imagined. There were times that I considered sending a private eye to find dirt on her, going back to slash her tires or sending compromising evidence of her infidelity to her husband. But I did nothing.

It wasn't until I took the Altar Ego class at my church that I came to a chapter that brought the verse of 1 John 4:20-21. First time I read this verse, I was ashamed. I knew that I loved God and I hated Katrina, I despised her. I wanted to see her rot in hell. However, the end of the verse states "whoever loves God must love their brothers and sisters," whether I liked it or not, she was a child of God.

This is when I had to learn to see her not for her sin, but for her hurts and hangups. Where I had to image her as a helpless child searching for her guidance. The moment I started to think of her as a helpless child, weak, abandoned, rejected, ignored and casted out was the moment i realized that I did not hate her, just everything she had done.

A person that hurts will act on those feeling of hurt towards their surroundings because that person wants understanding. That person wants others to understand where they currently stand in life, and is desperately seeking for some help and compassion. It is not the healthiest way to reach out, yet it might be the only way they know how to reach out. Overall, this was not a wasted experience, every time I face a Katrina incident I remember this:

-Are they hurting?
-How are they hurting?
-what is causing their pain/ unhappiness?

If I find answers to these questions, I pray for the person and myself. I especially pray to be able to give grace, and to give myself grace (if I started behaving in a non-Christian way).

Even if I don't find answers to these questions, I pray. It is not up to me to fix it, but it is up to me to ask God to fix it and for me to not be in the way of his work.

This has been my Aha moment...

















Monday, May 9, 2016

Standing on a Weak Foundation, Broken Down by Temptation...


So if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don't fall- 1Corinthians 10:12

I've read this bible verse many times. Especially having done a 12 step and going on to doing a second 12 step (I highly recommend all to do a 12 step at some point in their life). This is also one of my sponsors favorite bible verses.

It may seem like a simple statement or even a fair warning. To think that one is standing firm but could easily fall, there are many other expressions that connect to this verse:

  • Pride comes before the fall (Proverbs 16:18)-
    • Interpretation-If you are egotistical or wrapped up in yourself, you can fall (failure, humiliation, embarrassment, loss,abandonment, rejection, arrogance) and lose sight of what is really important or what really matters 
  • Vanity is the quicksand of reason -
    • Interpretation-Putting importance to the wrong things (money, material, power) that one forgets the important things (God, family, friends, life)
  • You can't build a great building on a weak foundation- 
    • Interpretation- If the core of a person is not solid, then the person will discombobulate in the future
A weak foundation is no place for greatness 
It doesn't matter how it is said or written out, the bottom line is knowing what our foundation is, and what is our core of the foundation as well as knowing what are our temptations. The following verse in 1Corinthians states: "No temptation has overtake you except what is common to mankind"

In the past I have fallen victim to my pride, ego, arrogance and weak foundation, my foundation was my ego and my core was my arrogance, my inability to accept that I needed help or was in need of correction in areas that I needed improvement. Temptation lurked in every corner of my foundation and core. 
Bottom line, the reality is we will continue to fall, there are temptations and shortcomings everywhere. But our focus should not be whether or not we will fall but learning to get back up and on firmer ground, learning to rely on our Higher Power and being God-dependent.
The biggest fall I have taken so far was leaving home thinking that I was better than anyone, that I can do it all alone(total ego). I took a job in Morgan Hill where I would be paid double what I was making in the prior workplace. Not once did it occur to me that I was standing on the quicksand of my ego and that it would be my downfall. 

I felt inadequate to take on any other job after I was terminated, and the reason was because I fell into the temptation of lies and arrogance. It was during this time that I had to break down my ego and pride and go back to the basics, demolish who I was, I had to make Faith my foundation for the new me I was building in Christ (I baptized myself during this time). 

During this time period of my life I was praying almost every day. Half of the time they were liquid prayers. At the time I didn't know that I should try to be prayer specific, 90% of my prayers just said "God help me."

After two months of being unemployed and having filled out over 149 applications for different positions from file clerk to Administrative Assistant, my foundation was none existent in my ego, but in my anxiety instead of Faith. As I rebuild myself it was no longer on my pride, however my core was my fear. 

Finally, I was called by a temp agency. It was for a coordinator position, and it would be on a temporary basis. I definitely felt that it was a blessing and took the job. It was here that I had to demolishing myself once more, and start rebuilding who I was. 

This new opportunity was a blessing, I ended up working in a place where the managers gave me advise and support. I was challenged, and when I struggled they would ask me to ask for help, because the expectation was that I needed to break the habit of putting it all on me. I was being sharpened and was feeling a new sense of hope. I gradually started building my foundation once again this time on optimism with my core being joy. 

They supported me through my last day, working with business partners to give me additional projects (this was the only way to extend my stay until I moved on to the next job). Towards the end of my last week, I came to find that two of the managers were actually Christian and they found as their purpose to help me get back on my feet on firm ground once again. 

There will be many falls in our lives, that is inevitable. Getting back up is the challenge, as well as rebuilding our foundation to be firm once again to not fall into temptation. 1Corinthians 10: 13 ends with letting us know that when we are tempted God is faithful and will not let us be tempted, he will provide a way out to endure. 

This is my third time finding my way out (of temptation), this time I am building my foundation on Faith and my core on Christ. I won't rush rebuilding myself, just like a house, it take time, the right materials, tools and Godly people. Rushing to rebuild myself could result in another fall from the foundation. Taking the time, will help me see the areas of my building that need improvement and modification as I continue to grow. 

This has been my Aha moment... 




Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Mosaic Life...



Ephesians 2:10

For we are God's Masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago

Shattered 

Many areas in my life have been shattered to pieces. Some pieces grounded down to dust, and others are left as few shards so delicate they cut at first contact. This is how many of us feel, like useless pieces of glass or debris ready to be tossed away, no purpose and no beauty to share with the world.


Our hearts break to pieces with every painful moment we live

The first time I read the bible verse above, my thought was but people don't know what I have been through, how can I be a masterpiece when all I have left are shattered pieces of my life? Who wants to use me (not abuse me)? Who would even listen to me?

To my amazement, there is still use and purpose for our lives and experiences. The struggles that I have faced are indeed due to my poor choices and judgment of the moment. However, God can still take a mess and make it into a message. He can use the broken pieces, recycle them and put together into a mosaic masterpiece.


We can still have purpose regardless of our origin and our prior form

What is Mosaic? 

Mosaic is an art form where pieces are gathered to develop a coherent image. It consists of  creating images with an assemblage of small pieces  with color such as glass, stone, and other material (other material that we would consider ready to toss away). This is what we all are, mosaic art formed in God's image. 

God is the glue to our brokenness...

God is who puts is back together (as his own masterpiece once again). He takes anything that we see shattered in our lives and converts it into a testimony, a message of hope, a blessing a miracle. God is our glue, in this case he is like grout, keep in mind that grout is fluid concrete that is used to fill gaps in mosaic art. When God puts us back together he wants to make sure he fills in all of our gaps, he wants us whole again for his purpose. There is no wasting in God's eyes, he makes sure that others  see the beauty reflected from our brokenness, but most importantly that we see it within ourselves. 

The first areas where God wants to solidify and glue together are our hearts and minds. 

Psalm 73: 26
My flesh and my heart may fail but God is the strength of my heart and my potion forever.
God works on our hearts to accept the things we cannot change, and to take what he gives us, knowing it is within our best interest. God wants us to have space in our hearts for him. Love is God and God is Love. God makes the ultimate sacrifices for us his children, and as a parent is he is willing to go the distance to ensure our healing and growth, but he will also make sure that we learn our lesson and uses that experience as a piece, a part of the overall masterpiece (remember there is no wasting with God!).  

Romans 12:2
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. 
God works on our minds to be collected and renew our thought process, releasing us from the triggers, anxiety, and oppression suffered through our shattering moments. He wants to clean our minds, and put the pieces back together to remember that God never forgets us. When we surrender our minds we surrender our hurtful habits of negativity, pessimism, anger, pity, pride, comparisons and other thoughts that only a hurt mind could develop. In place God puts optimism,hope, faith, devotion, empathy, growth, freedom and above all love. 

Every time a small part of us breaks off, God uses it to either restore us in an improved art piece or to complete another masterpiece he's just restored or has started to restore.  In the end God uses all of us in his masterful puzzle to connect us and ensure we understand and help each other. 

This has been my Aha moment...