A Man of An Unexpected Encounter

I often times think about the many ways God pursues us and it drives me to tears. He really is relentless in His pursuit and I feel so honored to have been adopted into His family. Whenever I think about how difficult this journey is, I think about how God pursued me, who I was before and how He has changed me, how His Word is always true and never fails. Walking by faith and not by sight can be incredibly difficult amidst all of the depravity and uncertainty today. Thus to have continuous faith and consistent integrity is truly valuable and reveals the glory of God.

Reading through Isaiah 55 and carefully meditating on God’s words and thinking about how important every detail is to Him, I felt as if I had a faith boost. The New International Version calls this chapter Invitation to The Thirsty whereas my NKJV bible deems it An Invitation to Abundant Life.  Whichever is most appropriate, this chapter is profound and abundantly meaningful. It is a reflection of God’s tender mercies and grace. Of course, this isn’t the only text in the scriptures that displays God’s character so beautifully but what stood out to me is when He says “So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; It shall not return to Me void, But it shall accomplish what I please, And it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it” (v. 11). What a delightful depiction of how God’s word never fails and always prospers. Amen? It’ll make sense why this stood out to me personally if you continue to read.

When I was about 20 years old I was approached by a homeless man in a McDonald’s by Yankee Stadium. My immediate assumption was that this man was going to ask me for money and I was prepared to flee the scene in a New York minute. However, something unexpected happened that changed my life forever. He began to prophesy. I was startled. Hence, I never imagined a homeless man would speak prophetically to me or anyone really. A man of an unexpected encounter. Most importantly, I was not a Christian at the time. My life was very different. Yet it was as if this man knew me and he came to do the will of God by sharing with me how much God loved me and how God called me for a specific purpose. Although I didn’t know God, at this time in my life I was searching for answers. What boggled me, even more, is when this man started mentioning how I was going to marry someone that is going to help me fulfill this mission of sharing the gospel and making disciples. There were several things that were difficult to process at the time:

  1. I’m going to surrender my life to Christ? What does that mean? I’m not “religious.”
  2.  I’m going to get married? Eeew (haha)
  3. I’m going to have a ministry with my husband? That sounds like a lot. How is that even possible?

So there were many things that were perplexing and frightening in all honesty. However, in retrospect, I see how that prophecy is unfolding. The homeless man finishes by saying, “I don’t want your money. What you will do for the kingdom is more valuable than your money.” God had been trying to reach me for many years prior to this (I’ll share more of my story in future posts) and for once this encounter really stood out to me. It was as if God was waving a flag in my face at this point in such an overt way while still manifesting Himself unexpectedly. It reminds me of how Jesus encounters His followers. He didn’t warn them He just approached them while they were pre-occupied and said: “follow me”. Isn’t it amazing how the creator of all things can be so loving that He persistently pursues us, mere human beings in the most subtle ways? Praise God! I spent days thinking about this encounter and processing through it after it happened.

A year later, I gave my life to Christ, unexpectedly. In my heart, I have this knowing that it’s what I’ve desired my entire life and that I’ve made the best decision I could ever make. God’s Word really never returns void. If God can open up the mouth of a donkey and speak through him (Numbers 22:21-39), He can use anyone, anything or any circumstance He wills to reach His children. Which means we have work to do. Jesus says “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.” (Matthew 9:37). Let’s continue to seek God on how He wants to use us. Nonetheless, I thank God for using that man to prophesy over me. I thank God for that man’s boldness. If it wasn’t for the many ways the Holy Spirit has encountered me, I would not be the professing Christian I am today. Now I have an indelible story to share with anyone willing to listen.

In the event that my church is allowing us to share how we came to faith in our small groups, I cannot help to reflect on this very prominent moment in my life and I felt so moved by the Holy Spirit to share this with you all. Saints, in what ways have God pursued you?

God bless you and thanks for reading!

 

 

How God Saved Me From Joining a Christian Cult

I almost joined a cult, you guys. Well, this is quite embarrassing but I felt the nudging from the Lord to share this story. It’s one that contains a multitude of emotions ranging from scary, sad, humorous, gratitude and more but I’ll let you decide for yourself.

It all started a few years ago after entering a new season of spiritual growth in my life. I was still very new to Christ but I was searching for answers. I wanted to go deeper but I wasn’t quite sure how and what made it even more difficult, I was not a member of a local church. Yes, the perfect recipe for being attacked as a new believer. I had recently left my former church and was searching for a church home in my neighborhood. I’ve attended church every Sunday but what I was honestly looking for were friends. I already had dozens of friends who loved God but I wanted at least one really close one to accompany me on this new spiritual journey. Yea, I wasn’t very mature at the time.

So I prayed and I mean I cried out to God about this. Then one day while shopping at H&M, a really nice young woman approached me. She seemed to be around my age. She invited me to a coffee gathering and asked me if I was Christian. I told her that I was. I remember thinking wow this girl looks like me and she really loves God too, I want to check out her gathering. She mentioned that the gathering was not a church gathering just a time of fellowship and bible study for people of all diverse denominations or faith who love God. It sounded very enticing at the time. So I attended and immediately felt something that is difficult to explain. I remember it clearly after worship there was a Korean man who presented a short sermon and I don’t remember everything he said but I remembered the feeling I felt. You know when Paul says “They demonstrate that God’s law is written in their hearts, for their own conscience and thoughts either accuse them or tell them they are doing right.” Romans 2:15(NLT) Well, I didn’t know the scriptures very well at the time (which is why I was searching for bible studies) but I just knew everything he was professing was false teaching. It was as if the Holy Spirit was saying very clearly “that’s not true. Get out of here.” I felt the urge to leave immediately but I wanted to be polite to my new friend who seemed like the sweetest girl on the planet. So she starts asking me about my job and my schedule and eventually she introduces me to other people there who were trying to get me to complete an application with personal information. Thank God I didn’t complete the entire application but yikes!

Jude 1:12 (NIV)

12 These people are blemishes at your love feasts, eating with you without the slightest qualm—shepherds who feed only themselves. They are clouds without rain, blown along by the wind; autumn trees, without fruit and uprooted—twice dead.

Eventually, this woman, let’s call her Justina, began to reach out to me often to meet up and talk and even do a bible study. I was all for it because I love bible study and I started to like this girl who I thought I had so much in common with. Then she assigned me to what they call a private teacher who would meet with me 2-3 times weekly for a bible study and that’s where things started to get really weird. If I did well with this bible study and understood the teaching, they were going to enroll me in the main course which was a free 6-month Bible-intensive course that will help me to become a bible scholar. I felt hesitant but I was also curious. So I attended for about 2 weeks and I noticed many red flags. One major one was their emphasis on the book of revelation and perception of Jesus’ parables as “hidden keys.” They believed that we must fully understand the book of revelation in order to be saved. So I ejected but they kept pursuing me. I no longer cared to attend but oddly I was curious about investigating further. I began to raise questions like: Why was it that no one I met had a church home? and why is Justina always speaking of traveling to Korea? And why do they compromise on things the bible is clearly against? I often spoke to my brothers and sisters in Christ about it and every one of them advised me to stop meeting with these people. I even challenged the private instructor I had and I noticed a shift in her demeanor. That same day she asked if I could be re-assigned to another instructor. I guess the truth really hurts.

This is where I finally gave up: I got accepted into the technology program of my dreams. It was already hard enough to get into the program and I had already decided that I was going to devote myself to completing the program. Of course, they were not in support. They were relentless in getting me to join the 6-month course. There was a process in recruitment and I’ll never forget the recruiter who tried to get me to join says “you can’t share anything you learn with everyone because they may think you’re weird”. HUH??!! I immediately felt the Holy Spirit at this point stirring in me all types of emotions but ultimately a sense that this was very ungodly and anti-gospel hence the gospel is all about sharing the good news of Jesus Christ and making disciples. So I politely said that I will not be joining. Of course, they guilt-tripped me and said something along the lines of “if you truly loved the Lord you would make the sacrifice.” I remember walking away that day feeling so alone, confused and crying out to God, desiring to be closer to Him and to be protected from people like this but also begging Him to know the truth. I just wanted to know Him for myself. So I did that on my own.

1 John 4:4 (NKJV)

You are of God, little children, and have overcome them, because He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.

A year later I accidentally stumbled upon a Youtube video about a Korean Christian Cult called Shincheonji. I researched it and noticed how fast it was growing around the world and how it is disguised in many locations. It seemed almost completely identical to the one I almost joined. I fell to my knees and praised God for being with me and rescuing me from that. I sometimes imagine what my life would be like if God was not with me and I actually agreed with their teaching. Thank God for discernment. I believe God uses all experiences to bring us closer to Him and to help others.

These people still roam the streets today in efforts to recruit people who are searching for answers. My heart is burdened for those already brain-washed by this. Please be careful brethren. I encourage you to know the Lord and His voice for yourself. I pray that you will be hidden in the word and keep your mind guarded against deception so that when you are approached your discernment will be sharp.

Thank you so much for reading and may God bless you and protect you always!

God and Our Desire for Creativity

Creativity is a beautiful concept. The very foundation of our existence. We were created by a creative creator. So it makes sense that many of us have a longing to be creative. God is abundantly creative and He wants us to live life abundantly and be fruitful because He loves us and we were created in His image.

Human head concept

I’ve always been so intrigued by God’s creation and I’m often in awe whenever I travel and observe nature. Lately, I’ve been inspired to share my thoughts on this topic because I noticed my longing to be more fruitful and creative for His kingdom. I wanted to find the source of this desire because it’s been more intense than it ever has and I’m sure many believers can relate to this.  It’s a longing to go deeper with God and explore the many ways He wants to use me. I’ve been feeling so honored to be in His presence and so humbled by the Holy Spirit that it’s caused me to really think deeply about my identity.

As Christians, we adopt the biblical worldview of being in the world but not of it as Jesus so mercifully says in 1 John 2:15-17 ” 15 Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. 16 For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world. 17 The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever.”

From a very early age, I’ve always felt like a foreigner in a world I did not belong to. And this is before knowing Christ. I was bullied often and told that I’m different. Well, maybe there was some truth to it, my adolescent years contained some pretty peculiar attributes- for one,  the enjoyment of singing in various languages in a household where that deemed rare and often made me the target of comedic relief. But I always felt the difficulty to conform. I struggled for a while in addition to being painfully shy but eventually, I was able to climb out of it somewhat and that just led me down a rabbit hole of mistakes. I was trying to be someone that I was not. Nonetheless, I discovered my unique talents and abilities and created a path of success for myself, or so it seemed (in retrospect I see God’s hand in it all). I wrote a play in high school that was elected to be performed by professional actors, I worked on a set for a film which has my name in the credits, I worked for former president Bill Clinton, was chosen to be valedictorian of my class and the list goes on. Yet I still believed I wasn’t creative; in many words, fruitless.

Of course with hills, there are always valleys in life. Valleys of stagnation when you feel unfruitful. That fruitlessness-despair which can sometimes lead to depression is a cry of our inherent desire to reconnect with the Father and be fruitful again. That desire has encouraged me to have a strong spiritual longing for fruitfulness. It’s as if those accomplishments in my past hold no value because I’ve found something so much greater! And it’s exactly what God wants from us. However, in retrospect, I do understand why God set me apart. Jesus says in John 15: 1-2 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.” He gave us talents and spiritual gifts to edify the church in preparation for His return. This walk is not to be taken lightly it’s much deeper than just accepting Him. He is a creative God who has implanted creativity in us and unique gifts to be fruitful and be used by Him. Imagine if we were all aware of our gifts how much we can do!

Are you bearing fruit?

I pray that God blesses you and His Holy Spirit encourages you to seek the gifts He has implanted in you and use them for His glory. I pray that God will raise up a generation of believers that are so on fire for Him and are willing to perform and witness many signs and wonders again.

God bless and continue to spend more time in His presence.

With Love,

Vanessa

Trusting God Through Difficult Times: Part 1

We live in a fallen world where everyone desires to maximize comfort and minimize suffering. Everyone is striving to reach their next season of blessings where everything seems to go so well that worrying becomes a sin of the past and sadly we forget about the trials we’ve faced. Living in the age of social media, I notice people rarely speak about the seasons of suffering; the process that God allows us to endure to draw us closer to Him before the blessings are poured out; not acknowledging that suffering can be a blessing in itself. People rarely see suffering as a good human experience that produces growth and I understand. But isn’t it interesting that the countries where Christians endure the most suffering and persecution seem to have the most faith-filled believers? Although my suffering is nothing compared to many of those who are persecuted in these countries, I am guilty of questioning God about my life sometimes.

What does it mean to suffer?

We can learn a lot from the disciples and early Christians but let’s focus on Apostle Paul for a minute. He is a great example of suffering outside of Jesus and would probably find some of the things we complain about to be quite humorous if he was alive today. Here’s a man who gave his entire life to Christ,  who he has never met in the flesh (only in spirit) and trusted Christ so much so that he was willing to be persecuted, endure pain and rejoice in it all for the glory of God.  The man who so famously posits “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” -Phillippians 1:21 But what does this look like for the 21st century Christian?

Surrender All 

What are you holding on to? I was holding on to a lot that only left me feeling empty. But I learned that tough times are temporary, God is eternal. Money, nice cars, houses, careers, friendships, beauty are all fleeting. Jesus Christ is everlasting. Only in Him am I  truly rich. Nothing on this earth is truly satisfying without God. I know this from experience. I thought my life was so full. Great things were happening consecutively and I was happy for some time but I was hungry for more. Each time I sufficiently conquered something, attained an accolade, I would say to myself “this is just not enough, there has to be more to life than this”. As an ambitious person, it was hard for me to stop seeking. Even as good things continue to happen in my life still nothing can satisfy me like Jesus. My joy comes from Him. Happiness comes and goes but joy is permanent. This joy is supernatural and transcends all the dark moments in my life. He’s my best friend and my Father. Only He can carry me through and out of tough times and make my good times so much brighter.

Therefore, it wasn’t until I surrendered everything to Him that I truly felt peace. Trust me, the money will only make you happy for a little while but without Jesus, you’ll always be wanting more. I’ve heard stories of wealthy people who sold all of their possessions and gave their lives to Christ. Isn’t it interesting how the depression rate in the US is on the rise and that those statistics include the wealthy? Whether you are rich or poor, if your life isn’t surrendered to Christ, you’ll always be desiring more. It’s because we were created by God and for God. We were created to desire a divine relationship that cannot be substituted with anything earthly. Thus why we feel a longing for something more even when we have so much. Often times, we don’t feel God’s presence in our circumstances and we fall subject to the idea that maybe He’s not there. That maybe He’s not listening because our circumstances are seemingly too unbearable. However, His Word is truth and you can stand tall on His promise that “he will never leave you nor forsake you.” -Deuteronomy 31:6.  We can trust that our unity with Him in heaven is a greater extension of our unity with Him right now on earth. So ask yourself, is there something you are still hanging on to that you need to lay at the altar? Let’s be clear, I’m not suggesting that you sell all your possessions and give up on everything. I am simply suggesting a paradigm-shift; that you shift your focus so that it is Christ-centered. Is He your priority? You can still be an electrical engineer who loves travel and dirt bikes but how much do you love Jesus? Your efforts to focus on Him will help you to trust in Him more. (More about surrendering in a later post)

Have Hope in His Goodness

We can rest our hope in our Father’s promises because the scriptures prove He’s faithful to the end. He always finishes what He begins unlike us who struggle with this. If we truly know who God is, we will be able to put our complete trust in His character, His wisdom and His sovereignty. Whenever we are faced with a challenge that seems absolutely unbearable and impossible to get out of, it will be easier to understand that God has us right where He wants us. He wants us to draw closer to him and He has something up His sleeve. He is about to do the impossible in that situation so that He can get all the glory for it. Amen? Let’s reflect on the many times He’s done that.

Paul writes in Romans 8:28 “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Because God is good and there is nothing He cannot do, we have to make the effort to have faith that He is working all things out for our good. Because of the fall in Genesis 3, we were separated from the presence of God and pain and suffering became inevitable but God sent a Redeemer, He gave His only begotten son Jesus Christ so that we can live eternally with Him. Is there a greater love than that?

Ask for Wisdom, Perspective and have Faith 

Consider Job. A man who was considered very pleasing in God’s eyes. He was the most faithful in all the land yet God allowed Him to endure suffering as a test of his faith. In just a matter of time, He lost everything yet he still rejoiced to say in Job 19:25 “I know that my Redeemer lives and that in the end, he will stand on the earth.” How many of us can have faith like this? Job so faithfully abandoned his trust in God even when his circumstances didn’t make sense. His wife and his friends didn’t understand it. But God has a way of giving us greater perspective by revealing His omnipotence for example when He says to Job in Job 38:4 “Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth? Tell Me if you have understanding.” Eventually, Job overcomes his trials and his losses are restored in double. A story that so profoundly exemplifies the beauty of the journey, highlights true faithfulness and trust in God. Like a woman who endures the pain of childbirth, if only we were all aware of the joy that lies on the other side of our pain. To do this we must seek wisdom and perspective from the Lord. In James 1:5 it says “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” God wants to give us wisdom during these times so just ask for it and have confidence in the wisdom that He gives you.

Develop a Discipline to Turn Your Pain into Glory

On the topic of developing perspective and discernment, there’s a posture in which this is cultivated. Many of you know the trials I’ve endured with losing my father and dealing with my mother’s illnesses. It’s truly been a journey but God has never failed to comfort me and give me perspective throughout. However, I had to make an effort on my end, I had to make a choice. As difficult as it seems, we have to choose to feel better and this comes out of full devotion to God and dwelling in His presence. The more time you spend in God’s presence (worship, prayer, reading etc) the more your thinking patterns will change and you’ll be more encouraged as the Holy Spirit exhorts you to develop a discipline to turn your circumstances around. Whether that be waking up earlier, going for a run, reading scripture, reading devotions, worshipping, spending time in prayer, journaling, and blogging. In addition, spending more time at church, or with friends, brothers and sisters in Christ and family, being active in your church’s ministries and maybe starting your own. Maybe it’s finally starting that business God told you you should start or going on that missions trip, interceding in prayer for that friend or relative or sharing the gospel with a stranger. It will all be food for your spirit and help you to grow closer to God. You’ll begin to see your life transform. As mentioned, God allows us to go through tough times so that it can be used for His glory so ask Him what you should be doing in this season that will bring Him the most glory. We have to be intentional about our healing and often times this includes helping others going through similar struggles. I truly believe purpose is found in that.

No matter how hard it gets, please don’t forget that God loves you – He gave His only begotten son. You are so valued! Heaven went bankrupt for you. He wants a relationship with you and wants to turn your pain into glory. And He’s working things out for you for your good. He has your best interest at heart and has a really good plan for your life. In due timing, that situation will disappear, just continue to have faith. Trust that the pain you are enduring is only for a season and that this chastening and sanctifying process is so that you can be Christ-like, be a light in a dark place and be prepared for better seasons to come. No matter if you are Christian or not, no one is exempt from the struggles in this world that resulted from the fall but if you have Jesus you will for certain have peace and hope that transcends all understanding. He makes everything better.

May God bless you!

I hope this was a blessing to you!

P.S. God created us for community. Never go through tough times alone. I am your friend. Please do not hesitate to reach out to me for anything.

Much love,

Vanessa

To Be Continued Because The Journey Never Ends…

Selecting A Programming Language and Mapping Out Your Career in Tech

What are you looking to build? That should be the first question when selecting any programming language to start with. On your journey, you will hear many different opinions about which languages are best. Many will say JavaScript is a great language to start with and others may say Ruby on Rails but it’s very important to do your own research and to assure that you aren’t wasting your time learning how to code in a language you may not use. Hence, choosing a language is like choosing a spouse; you don’t want to marry the language that won’t be conducive to your future and you definitely don’t want to continue divorcing one and moving on to another. In this post, I will demonstrate how to marry the language suitable for you and hopefully help you map out your career path.

Technology is evolving at a much faster pace than ever before. Programming languages popular a decade ago are no longer popular. This is largely due to the influx of computer usage and programmers over time with their passion to build improved, and more efficient products. In turn, they’ve mastered the ability to tailor the former languages which were mostly lower-level, machine code languages requiring a compiler (which I will explain in more detail later) into higher level scripting languages that do not require a compiler. Programmers have always searched for shorter and more convenient methods to use code to convey instructions using the simplest most readable syntax. Keep in mind, a lazy programmer is an effective programmer because he/she saves a lot of time executing an instruction using fewer lines of code. As a result, there are approximately 256 programming languages to date. However, you’d want to hone in on the top 5 most relevant languages in 2016:

1. JavaScript

2. Java

3. Python

4. Ruby

5.c++

 

What Would You Like to Build?

Stay true to your goals and do not let anyone convince you otherwise. What do you want to achieve as a programmer? Before I started coding I became very overwhelmed with the number of languages there were and which ones would suit my dream idea. I started with JavaScript because I’ve heard so much buzz (and also confirmed via research) about it being the most significant, front-end, beginner-friendly language, that allows you to build almost anything on the web. And because my focus at the time was to build web applications, JavaScript was definitely the first choice. However, not only did I notice that JS was moving down the spectrum in demand a bit but my interest in building iOS and Android applications increased. Therefore, I decided that I should focus on Java and Swift. I ended up practicing in Ruby and Python just to grasp the skill of coding in various languages when I really didn’t have to. Focus on the one you are going to need to develop that prototype you’d like to create even though your language of choice may not be relevant in a few years. It’s perfectly fine to take the route I did and explore a bit with different languages but like with everything in life, if you are willing to get anywhere fast with the least amount of confusion, focus on one thing at a time. Wait until you’ve mastered programming in one language before moving on.

Stay In Demand

Your main objective should be to stay in demand. Not only do you want to be true to your goals but you also want to choose the most relevant and profitable tools to help you achieve those goals. Once you’ve mastered coding in one language, chances are it may not be the most in demand next year. Although there’s always a need for developers in every company, your salary may be contingent on the type of language you use. This can apply to independent web-app developers, mobile application developers, freelancers, tech start-up entrepreneurs, and job seekers searching for employment in the tech industry. For example, I work in Investment Banking and we rely on legacy code and tons of data with high security. Due to the exorbitant amount of data and security, our risk management software is built on C#, WPF, and Java. Unfortunately, my skills lie primarily in Javascript but this has been a great learning experience for me. My team also has plans for migrating to Javascript to get up to speed with the newer technology of the time but of course, they prefer the AnguarJS over the ReactJS framework and this will for sure be a slow process.

The diagram below ranks the demand for programmers in 9 language fields according to the amount of available positions for each in 2016.

programming-languages-for-2016_graph

Also, keep in mind the importance of developing good data structure and algorithms problem-solving technique. It’s important to fully understand these concepts in any language you choose.

In conclusion, choose the programming language that best suits the industry you’d like to pursue, focus on mastering that language first and all the concepts and then start learning other languages.

Happy Coding!

 

Tired Blood: My Battle with Iron Deficiency

For the last few years, I pondered why my energy has plummeted over time. I often speculated if it was somehow linked to my decision to officially become a vegetarian-pescatarian in 2014 or if it had anything to do with stress. Yet I know I shouldn’t make excuses for myself I still do it. This health deficit has really affected my life in so many ways. It has caused me to feel very fatigued and lethargic and appear unmotivated at times. On some days I’ll have this huge rush of energy and on other days I feel like I’ve exhausted all of it even when I may not have done much at all. My body often feels weak and my brain feels tiresome. But what could it be? A good German friend of mine once told me “Vanessa I think you’re just being lazy!” I admire his German predisposition to be transparent with me which is why that statement has probably been the best observational, tough love I’ve ever heard coming from a successful computer scientist who has also struggled with the same issue from time to time. Yet, I’m not entirely sure if it’s laziness hence I continue to feel this way and I’m constantly struggling to overcome it every day. I feel like I’ve experimented with every energy inducer that exists (ie. I drink a cup of coffee every morning and Maca root which provides an even shorter relief) and my flesh still wants to rest. Although I trust that God will bring me out of this I still worry about time and relationships. I feel like there aren’t enough hours in the day for me to get things done and it also hinders me from building better relationships with relatives and friends. I can’t ignore that this is the worst time to feel fatigued and that something is wrong.

During this season of fatigue, my appetite has changed. I no longer desire the food I used to love, my ability to maintain healthy communicative relationships with people have declined, and my fatigue and sense of time-lack have led me to regret being less productive on the days when I had less responsibility. Nonetheless, I assumed that inability to sustain an adequate amount of energy throughout the day was probably linked to health problems. After discovering that my mom had Sickle Cell Anemia when I was 10 years old, I then discovered that I had the Sickle Cell trait as a result. But after learning that it as only hereditary, asymptomatic and a non-contagious trait, I didn’t think much of it. However, I am now convinced that my fatigue may be influenced by this trait despite all of the research that proves my argument incorrect. Yet there are some rare cases of people with SST having symptoms. So I expressed my concerns to my primary care physician in which she immediately deduced that there may be an issue with my blood; something occurring internally that is probably the common denominator in all this madness. So I agreed to let them run some tests and she found that I was severely iron deficient. Now, this isn’t the first time I’ve been told that I was iron deficient and I am aware that nearly 20 percent of African American women are iron deficient but this was a seemingly different case. My doctor explained that I was so alarmingly iron deficient that it was most likely caused by my blood’s inability to store iron. Our blood contains a protein called ferritin, needed to bind to iron and store it within our bodies. What she was describing was my body’s lack of ferritin or inability to bind the protein to the iron and how that may be linked to cancerous tissues or any other organ problems. Whenever I hear the “C” word I get very afraid. Hence, this was the second time I’ve heard from a medical professional that I may have cancer. I was mortified. I went on a 2-month mission of frequent painful examinations and procedures such as endoscopy, x-ray, and biopsy. I was determined to find out what was wrong with me only to discover that they didn’t find anything…which is a blessing. My doctor later determined that the only plausible issue was my diet. Due to my recent transition to vegetarianism, my body was lacking in a few vital components.  Therefore she prescribed iron supplements and I thought my life was going to improve dramatically. According to her, Iron and B12 were the missing links and by increasing my intake, I will no longer have this issue. We were sadly mistaken.

While taking the 100 supplements, I continued to feel the same way. Initially, I thought I was improving but now I’m convinced that was all psychological. Post-Iron supplement experience, I feel the same way I felt going into it. I’m still unsure if it’s my diet though and I’ve had the sickle cell trait my entire life and have never experienced fatigue the way I do now. All I know is that there is something wrong with me and the doctors may not have been able to detect it yet. Meanwhile, every day is a push for me. Every day I battle against the forces of sleepy-ism and I have to say I’ve been fighting it pretty well lately. Maybe it’s stress. Maybe it’s my depression. Although I’m a little embarrassed to post this, I’ll do it anyway because life is all about transparency right? A lesson I learned from my German friend. Maybe I can help someone out there. Maybe someone knows exactly what I am going through. Maybe we can help each other. In the meantime, I’ll continue to pray about this.

 

Coping with Parent Loss

As Father’s day approaches, I feel numb reflecting on the past 10 months of not having my father around and evaluating how I coped with grief since  he passed away just a few days shy of my 25th birthday. I do not know how I am supposed to feel. My 25th year has been a roller coaster since then, filled with peaks of joy and valleys of sadness. I do not know what to expect but I am reminded that there is no defining way to grieve. The test of time may make coping easier but it also depends on the individual. So I can’t promise that you’ll overcome your grief with these methods but it may hopefully make things easier for you. What helps me cope are the powerful words of Jesus Christ and this quote in particular in 2 Corinthians 12: 9-10 reminds me that one day things will be a lot easier: But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” So beautifully stated and humbling to know which makes this is one of my favorite scriptures! Notable Neurologist and Psychoanalysis, Sigmund Freud also said

“One day, in retrospect, the years of struggle will strike you as the most beautiful.”

We all strive to reach this point. So in efforts to help you cope, I’ve listed the 6 coping mechanisms that have helped me find peace in my struggle:

1. Stay Prayed Up

I found that having a consistent prayer life has helped me when my emotions begin to stagger. I am a witness to the amazing results consistent prayer can provide. When I pray, I trust that God will deliver me from whatever is troubling me and He does. Also trusting in God will help you realize that there is something far greater than your troubles. This is the most essential part of the grieving process.

2. Build and Maintain a Support System

Having a great, circle of supportive family and friends can really improve your outlook on life during this time. The first thing you will probably think of doing is isolating yourself but absolutely do not do this, it will only make matters worse. I am an introvert by nature so this definitely fell victim to isolation. Therefore, I can’t say there aren’t going to be days when you do not want to do anything, go anywhere or be around people for that sake. However, we heal and grow faster with human interaction and relationships. Surround yourself with family and friends who have a positive vibe and provide words of encouragement. If you do not have this type of support system, then join a support group. There are many ways you can meet new people with awesome websites like meetup.com.

3. Allow Yourself to Hurt

Do not allow yourself too much time alone to dwell on negative thoughts such as the “I should haves” or “I could haves.” Hence, this event was out of your control. Yet, create a balance in which you’ll be able to maybe go to a park and cry or even cry in the shower if you have to. While surrounding yourself with supportive friends on other days. Either way, you should never hold it in. I find that talking to a trusted friend helps but do not allow yourself to get angry at someone’s response to your despair. Not everyone is going to understand or know how to react to your loss. I still struggle with reacting appropriately to other’s loss. Therefore, you may need more time alone to grieve before surrounding yourself with people.

4. Develop a More Positive Outlook for this World’s Finite Nature

This was a tough pill to swallow for me but I understand that everything in life is finite. Not only human life but even this state of being that you may be experiencing. You won’t always feel like crap.  There will be good days. Learn to appreciate the bad days and trust that it is only temporary. Demonstrating this gratitude will assuredly bring you out of this funk. However, it’s easier said than done.

5. Keep Yourself Occupied

After my dad passed away, I wanted to keep myself as occupied as possible. Although it has been difficult to even climb out of bed some mornings, I refused to just lay around depressed. I wanted to get involved and possibly help others who were experiencing similar struggles. Use this time to keep yourself busy. The best way to relieve depression is to be a blessing to someone suffering in a even worse situation than yours. Initially it is very hard, I have faltered many days when I do not want to do anything at all but it’s so worth the pain in the end once you have finally pushed yourself. This will galvanize a change in your attitude that others will marvel at. You will feel stronger  and one day you will relish in retrospect at your own strength.

6. Reflect on the Good Times

I know this may be difficult but it helps. Remembering your mother or father’s laughter or the loving words they shared with you can be all the joy you need to make it through the day. I love my family. They have a way of recreating the feelings of laughter and joy that we’ve felt in the past and in return changing the mood in the room. This is why reflecting on good past experiences are very important.

Are you a victim of parent loss? How have you dealt with it? I appreciate your comments. Thank you for reading! I hope this helped. We’re in this together.