Friday, June 24, 2016

Success and Failure, which is worse? Or are they about the same?

1 Samuel 18:14 " And David had success in all his undertakings,  for the Lord was with him" 

One of the most challenging parts of life, is learning to deal with success and failure. Learning to accept that success and failure test faith and character, especially with an alert audience, but most importantly with God that is present at all times day and night.

Writing this blog entry was somewhat stressful. Not sure if I will succeed or fail, because I wanted to deliver a powerful and useful message to many who struggle with their past and current success or past and current failures. Somehow, instead of being able to rejoice in our success, there are times we face envy and jealousy, and instead of accepting failure we face humiliation and damnation from our public, and we tend to forget about our reliance on God. Therefore, if you get anything out of this entry, remember that we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us (Philippians 4:13), and all things include success and failure.  

The most challenging part of success is retaining the humility that once drove a person to their goals and desires. With success, it is difficult to stay grounded and to remember that the same way one goes up can easily come back down, and can go crashing down deeper than before. Success drives people further into their personal goals and ambitions, and away from the familiar and comfort. Eventually success can develop a mentality of "no one matches me" syndrome, where the success is being celebrated alone, and it gets really lonely and quiet when the wealth is not being shared.

Feeling like failure is always tying me down
The most challenging part of failure is releasing the insecurity that can break one's character, and falling away from the success spectrum, as well as obtaining the desire and drive that once fueled the fire of success. Trying to ignite that fire is a challenge and one only hopes that the embers which remain may rekindle the soul. Failure ties a person down to the ground, disabling the ability to stand back up and try again, with failure a person feels defeated, weak alone and away from God's grace, because failure has mastered the person's ability and hope.

A challenge of  character... 

Success and failure have some things in common, they test our faith, our hope, our drive. Both can make or break a person,  success and failure can either drive someone to accept God's blessings and glory with humility, or deny their circumstances with wrath and resentment. Success and failure can impact our character flaws and the people that surround us. The challenge is not success or failure itself, it is learning to walk in balance with both. It's like a pendulum, swing too far to one side, and all of a sudden the feeling of power and might take place like being on an altar, swing too far to the other side, and suddenly one may be laying on the floor face down eating dirt. It takes strong character to remember to be proud but not arrogant and be humble but not shameful, and to trust in God and his will of why things don't work out or, work out extremely well that it might be a challenge to share the blessing because we want to remain humble and like-able.

Successful? Me? All the time! Well not really...

I had never really thought of myself as a successful person, I was told that I was a success, at first it was a challenge for me to accept it. I didn't want to accept it because I was wounded in the past from other fears and rejections and feared not knowing how to handle  my own success, I feared my own wrath. I was afraid that I was not pretty enough or attractive enough, and was also afraid of being too successful and what success could truly do to me, corrupt me, make me vain or selfish. Sure enough my fear was confirmed, with each goal attained, I felt invincible, and with each recognition and award collected I felt superior. My humility was gone and my ego had taken a drive on the fast lane to self satisfaction and lack of modesty, disregarding all who had helped me along the way. To some extent, I felt better than the rest and was condescending judging others for their "lack of drive."

Matthew 7:3- Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brothers eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?

Truthfully, in my adolescence I was a nerdy, drama geek who did extra curricular activities and spent a lot of alone time during my middle school and high school years. I was socially awkward and did not know how to connect with teens my age, therefore being academically successful was my escape. I only had two close friends in middle school, one moved away midways through 7th grade, and the other went to another high school after our 8th grade graduation. In high school I spent time with only one friend. This of course was difficult because between her and me, she was the pretty girl all guys wanted to talk to and I was the DUFF (Designated Ugly Fat Friend).
Me, during my middle school and high school years, as the DUFF
Me, current time 2016

Any time a guy would come and talk to me, it was about my friend, so I ended up being the chubby humorous sidekick. This drove me to succeed academically, because at least in academics I did not need to be pretty just intelligent and willing to learn. I never learned to fail until I got out in the real world. This was devastating as I saw failure(s) as a sign of weakness, underachievement and total humiliation. Feeling ugly and feeling stupid, not a good combination for a broken person, with each step I took I felt that parts of me were breaking off and leaving  me with nothing but my guilt for lack of humility.

Failing in public...

My biggest failure by far have been with my health. I never really took care of my eating habits, and my way of coping with fear, loneliness and rejection was with food. On August 4, 2008, I was diagnosed with  type 2 diabetes and I felt that I had failed myself.  I had to change my habits and went from 277 lbs down to 147 lbs, which for my body it was extreme. It was not the best way to lose the weight, but the way I did it was eating less and less each day, overworking my body, and lastly, restricting myself excessively.

The end result, I lost all the weight, but in a matter of 5-6 months, I gained 25-30 lbs back. I had failed to keep the weight off. It was depressing, embarrassing and humiliating, because after the success I literally felt like I was better than the rest of my friends who were heavier.  The failing part was not that I gained some weight, it was that I had not learned to live a healthier lifestyle, because as a diabetic, I should have focused on healthy eating habits and physical activity for a better quality of life, over trying to lose weight to look better. While family and friends understood that I had a medical condition, they did not understand what it takes to control the medical condition, and that made me feel more alone and like a bigger failure.

Romans 5:3-5
More than that, we rejoice in our suffering, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. 

Success doesn't mean we did it on our own, sometimes we have people that help along the way. However, God is always with us each and every step of the way. The glory should go to him  always, for answering our prayers, delivering blessings and performing miracles on a daily basis. Success is not designed  for us to pull away from Christ, it is  designed so we come closer to Christ. Nothing we do or have should inflate our ego, resentment, wrath or pride. It should deepen and extend our faith and inspire both believers and non-believers in the power of faith and hope. Giving thanks to our Lord gives others an opportunity to reflect on their walk (or crawl) with the Lord. 

Failure doesn't mean we are not worthy, it means it is not the right time, we have something to learn or we are growing deeper in our faith and communication with God. Lack of success does not equal failure, in my case  it has equaled to me learning to see failure as part of my growth process. I lacked so much failure in the past  (or failure to see failure itself when I had failed) and focused so much on success, that the pendulum of my life came swinging back hard crashing in almost every area of my life. If you have seen the movie "Inside Out" where the  characters personality islands fall apart, well my life felt like that portion of the movie.  The pendulum came back ans crashed into demolishing my health, love life, family affairs, friendships, finances, and career. Every area where I felt was untouchable was very vulnerable and fragile. 

Our savior is a God of second chances

Success in private...

 The purpose of failure is to learn to rely not on our own understanding but to understand that God prepares pearls of wisdom with each experience and these are the true jewels that I can hold on to. My experiences of failing have served me to recognize when I am walking away from God, steering back into pride, or when I see others heading down the same road I took. When I see others struggling in same areas that I have struggled, I do not tell them what to do, I just tell them where I went wrong. It is not  up to me to fix them, it is up to me to plant that seed of hope, so that desperation and ambition do not overtake their character or faith. In a way, it is like sharing a testimony of God's love and grace for us.  Failure is God's way to give us more of what he has in-stored for us,  but when he sees the time is right and at his timing.  Just  how seeds  are planted and cannot be re-potted until a certain point of time, God will not re-pot us until we start showing sprouts of grow in our faith and love. 

This has been my Aha moment...

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Serving my vice and the reaping

1 John 2:16 

For all that is in the world- the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions- is not from the Father but is from the world. 

Sometimes we expect blessings to be tangible, when in really it comes as wisdom and experience.

Falling, falling can't get up, trying to buy my way out of it...

The challenging part  as a Christian, is to leave addictions which make me fall on a regular basis. My addiction does not consists of drugs, alcohol, prescribed medications, or need of attention. My addiction is shopping. The general practice of every female from puberty to menopause here in America. The excuse of every lady to go spend some cash (or on someone's credit card if our own is in bad shape!)

I had not realized how bad my addiction to retail was until I started to wonder where my money was actually going. I know we (women) tend to think it's okay to get a little something when we feel depressed, rejected, upset, angry, bitter, competitive, frustrated, you name the emotion, it doesn't matter what "feeling" kicks in, we justify it by saying we deserve to feel better, but even after leaving the store and with the receipt at hand the emotion(s) linger.
My thought every time I saved some money...
I didn't realize I had a problem until the day I moved out from my parents home, It was here I realized I was a hoarder. I own numerous purses, shoes, office supplies (colorful pens, girly notebooks), self help books, you name it I had it. I could have easily put together a Yard Sale, but I didn't, everything was MINE. I found some items which I had not even opened and clothes with the price tag still on them! I had two sweaters of the same brand, price and size as well as two dresses equally intact. And despite this revelation, I still denied my issue.

Immediate satisfaction, broken guarantee...

Everything in that room was a quick fix, not an actual solution. I've done this so many times, I feel a bit upset, stressed, tired, bored go to the mall and buy something on sale, something new, something in a flattering color.  When I knew (and know) I was limited on my budget, I wouldn't go to the mall, I would go to the Dollar Tree, or worse online shopping on Amazon and put things on my "wish list," then after a day or two (or payday) I would purchase.These actions and circumstances were driving me to put more power and attachment to material and monetary things over God.

My behavior was that of a victim that was trying to justify lack of material or of being part of the mundane society. It was like a subliminal message engraved in my brain. The more I gave in, the more debt I developed...

Finding the roots, pulling them like weeds...

Matthew 6:24 
No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money. 

I blamed God  constantly for my circumstances like any addict.I was worshiping money and elevating it in the place where I should have been elevating and worshiping God, this action can easily turns to love or attachment, even an obsession. I blamed God for the lack of material in my life as a child.  My craving was to have everything that I had lacked growing up. This was the root of my issues, that I felt deprived and loved having something new, shiny, something that made me feel unbroken. This is how I grew up, wanting more money, because I constantly heard my parents fight over money and how they couldn't afford things for their four children. The more material I had, the happier I would feel because I would have fulfilled my need. Every time I got a new job the first question was "Will you get paid more?" and not "Is it your passion?" "Do you feel that your career will grow"? the emphasis in our family was, we need to stand out from our cousins and other relatives, we need to be on top and making more than all of them, otherwise we are just like the rest of the poor people.
Misleading illusions 

To thicken the plot, yes I was teased, bullied and not welcomed into social cliques. This affected me deeply, I had no self esteem, from my adolescence through my early adulthood. I got involved with credit cards  like all young adults in my early twenties, and going into a private online school that costed more than I could ever afford.My program was modified half ways and I ended up wrapping it in 48 months with $100,000 in student loans debt. To this day I am still paying that debt which affects my overall monthly budget.

The wound is and has been deeper than I expected. Part of it was trying to nurture myself, as well as  my wanting to show to the world that I was not struggling. I felt like I was living a double life.

Overall Aftermath...penny pinching, and gaining true wealth 

Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God said, "Never will I leave you, never will I forsake you. Hebrews 13:5 

The social norm says you get a bonus, you get a raise, go spend indulge YOU DESERVE IT, God says I'm all you need I will always be with you, I will not forget you, I will not forsake, I will always love you. God never leaves us, we are the ones that leave God, we leave him in our past, the back burner, behind the credit card we learned to worship for the frequent flier miles we are racking up. We leave him like an old item and then glorify the new shine item we just purchased, until we feel empty again.
Learning to save daily, a challenge overall but was able to stick it out for a year

The things we do to have emergency money at hand

I was tired of feeling empty, tired of feeling alone. I learned through Christian friends the best thing to do is to pray,  and read my bible and to give up the material things. Giving up material things has been a challenge yet a freeing decision. I was learning to be content with what I had and learn to not forsake God because he never forsake me. The whole financial experience was teaching me that my wealth was not in my purse or bank account but in my experience and gained wisdom on finances. I am not an accountant but I am gradually learning to not have shame for what I lack in material. My true friends love me regardless of what brand my purse is.

"I don't need money in my pocket that will make me partial, I need God in my heart who will make me whole"

Overall, I'm learning to take it a purchase at a time. It sounds funny, but I literally alot myself a specific amount for groceries, gas, bills and additional expenses trying to not deplete my limited amount. I've been tithing at my church, I had never given to a church before. There are times that I do not have the 10% as the bible states we should give (Numbers 18:21-28), however I know that God is still pleased that I give as long as I give willingly and from the heart (2 Corinthian 9:6-7, Luke 21:1-4) The same way that God gives to me he can take away, and I don't have control over that. I do have control over how I choose to spend my money, and daily it is a continual struggle that I face between buying something I see on sale or just letting my money stay in my purse. I have been blessed by taking the latter decision, since I have found ways to help other and at times I feel the holy spirit saying "this money is not for you, it's for what lies in front of you" and I find myself giving it away.
Gradual steps towards blessing others

Learning to have little when at one point I had a lot, it's a challenge, but it's worth it as I find myself feeling thankful that I am gradually walking away from my vice.

This has been my Aha moment...