As many of you know, I’m a pretty odd duck. Weird stuff has happened to me just about all my life. Sometimes that’s made for difficult times. Sometimes it’s been a blessing in disguise.
Going through my Facebook memories today, I found this little story that could have ended badly but turned out to be just another unusual event in my life. Thankful to God for His blessings to me.
On this date five years ago, I was just sitting and minding my own odd business when suddenly, out of the right side corner of my eye, I saw a bunch of flashing bright white geometric shapes (mostly triangles) that formed a crescent moon. It was just below and slightly right of wherever I was looking. It was reflective and sparkly and lasted about 15 or 20 minutes making it hard for me to see beyond it. My husband was convinced I was going blind so (REALLY long story short) I was rushed to urgent care.
Drs and nurses had no idea but feared it was a retina tear or detatched retina. They suggested I see an opthomologist the next morning and explain exactly what I experienced.
It was really hard to explain what I saw. Coincidentally, I had gotten a piece of junk mail with a weird reflective sticker inside that looked exactly like what I saw so I took it with me.
After a thorough examination to rule out anything more serious, it turned out it was a painless occular migraine. Now, if you have to have a migraine, this is the kind of migraine you want! Painless is always the way to go, if at all possible! 😂
Thankful this week for God’s many blessings in my life including all of those I’m able to enjoy this year having lost 33 pounds!
Do you see that brown spot on my cheek? That’s what my OBGYN called a birthmark. No, I wasn’t born with it. My children were. 😉
When I was pregnant with my first (my dd), I developed this mark. It was on my right cheek. The doctor said it would go away after I gave birth. It didn’t.
When I was pregnant again, I developed a similar mark on my left cheek. It didn’t get as big because I wasn’t pregnant very long. I miscarried.
When I was pregnant with my son, the mark on my right side began getting bigger. Unfortunately, I had similar problems with this pregnancy and was put on bed rest.
One day when I was washing my face, I looked in the mirror and I felt as if God was speaking to me. He said, this child would be ok. The mark was on the right side. It wasn’t on the right side (meaning not left). It was on the RIGHT side (meaning not wrong!)
I felt a peace and my son was born perfectly healthy though his birth story is chock full of God’s miracles! That is a whole other story I’ll share another time.
Yesterday, I was looking at myself in the mirror (something I don’t mind doing now that I’ve lost 33 lbs!) and I noticed that the mark on my right cheek is almost gone. After 30 years, you almost can’t see it anymore. However, that birth mark on my left side is still prominent. As I wondered why God would allow the mark on my right side (reminding me of my two beautiful children) to fade while leaving the left visible, it hit me!
The Lord wants to remind me of what He did for me and for my children. There’s a child I’ll see one day in heaven even though I wasn’t able to here on earth.
Through adversity, God gives us gentle reminders of His love. We can find joy in that at some point – even if not at that moment.
If you’re struggling, remember that God wants to comfort you. You’ll find peace if you look to Him.
When we’re going through something difficult, we often don’t see much progress. We don’t feel God near us or we don’t see an answer to prayer. Most of you, like me, have lived with chronic issues for a lifetime. My fatigue started when I was a child. I could never understand how other teens and pre teens had the energy to run around and even do chores.
As we go through difficulty, we get used to dealing with it as best we can. That’s good, but it’s just as often, bad. What I mean is, we get so used to being fatigued, to not being able to take a shower without having to rest, that we don’t even consider that anything could change and we may not even notice when it does!
Case in point, my weight loss journey. For those who are just joining me, here’s the background to get you up to speed:
I’ve been packing on the pounds for over twenty years. After delivering my son at the ripe old mom age of 37, I was thrust into peri menopause. It was both frustrating and frustrating.
What I mean is, it was frustrating because I was slowly adding poundage. I was a different kind of frustrated because that’s when the Hellish Hot Flashes started. I was all kinds of frustrated that my doctors (plural) would NOT believe I was actually IN peri menopause! And I was frustrated because no matter what I did, what I didn’t eat, how hard I tried to exercise, and how hard I tried, I just kept gaining!
After the hysterectomy four years ago, my weight gain took on Olympic proportions! I was now a whopping 152 pounds! That might not sound like a lot to YOU, but if you consider my stature or lack there of, is only 5′ nuthin’, it was quite astounding.
It took me 21 years to add the weight and I really had no idea how bad I looked til one day I got a glimpse of myself in the mirror. How could I be gaining all those years so much weight and having it make THAT much of a difference…and I not NOTICE??? It happened while I wasn’t really looking. A little at a time. Then, one day, I saw it and BAM!
So, I found my health coach and Mary and I got to work. I began losing weight but just a wee bit at a time so…I didn’t notice. My husband kept telling me that I was looking great, but when I looked in the mirror I still saw a fat me. Until…one day…
It was interesting to me how it went both ways, but that’s not the end of the story. While I was trying to lose the last five pounds of my menopause weight, I was pretty frustrated that my thighs and upper arms still had wagging rights.
However, as I was contemplating the pain level of squats and modified pushups, something amazing happened! My thighs were discovered social distancing! Yes! While I wasn’t looking, my thighs actually responded to…
I’ve been exercise intolerant for about 58 years, the sum total of my life here on Earth ever since the space stork dropped me off here. How could it be that I was FINALLY able to do some that actually worked? Answer? I dunno. I think it was just the combination of the incredible job Mary did with my weight loss that allowed me to have enough energy to actually DO any exercise and my husband’s suggestion that I try squats and modified pushups.
I’m both proud and ecstatic to announce that my thighs (and even my calves) are thinner than they have been since I can remember! I’m still experiencing more energy and fewer/less severe flares since my 31 pound weight loss. Meanwhile, I’m working on my upper arms and turkey waggle neck. Film at 11!
What I’d like you to take away is how many times we are actually MAKING progress, but not actually SEEING it. God works that way sometimes. Sometimes we are working hard at what we feel God has asked us to do, but we are not seeing the fruits of our labor. Sometimes we are doing something that WILL have a positive effect on our health, but we don’t see any progress.
Sometimes, we just have to keep looking before we can see it.
So, I had a bit of a reorganization of my ENTIRE life this past month or so! It’s in almost every area of my life so I thought I’d share a bit of that with you and tell you what that means for my Life Beyond Surviving blog moving forward.
For the last seven months, I’ve been on a health journey that has been truly transformational. I’ve lost 30 pounds and countless inches due to my health coach, Mary. Because of that, I’ve lowered my blood pressure and increased my sleeping, and my energy. It has decreased the number of Fibro flares I’ve had and also the duration of those flares. I still have a minimal amount of energy but I’m no longer taking naps in the afternoons or getting fatigued after a shower. At least once a week, I posses the energy to blow try my hair…all of it. LOL
Unfortunately, my Essential Tremors have ramped up quite a bit. Using utensils has been especially difficult, but my daughter and son in law bought me some weighted utensils that help quite a bit. I’ve had to add a special gloves to help me in the kitchen as well. These handy little purple wonders help me avoid burning and cutting (or in this case shredding) my fingers.
During this last month or two, I’ve felt more and more that I am lead to pick up my Art of Eloquence role and move it forward. As I was noticing that the rhetoric on social media has become so angry, I began to feel called back to my communication roots. I founded a new Facebook group where I have begun hosting live workshops that speak to those who have a mission, ministry, or business but struggle with shyness or social anxiety that doesn’t allow them to move forward as they feel called.
Lastly, it has become more and more difficult to type so, I have decided that I need to take a step back from this blog for now. I will continue to update it about once a month, but I will be putting more of my time and typing energy into my business and to what I feel called to do to help God’s children find their voice.
I pray that God continue to use me and I pray you find your purpose despite the difficulties that chronic illness brings.
So this month, I have shared how those of us with chronic illness seem to have been born without a comfort zone and how that has actually strengthened us both spiritually and mentally. I shared how our strength can be an inspiration and lesson to those who haven’t yet developed such strength. Then, I shared one of the most loved of my articles that spoke of the blessings of pain.
Now, I’d like to turn it over to the Lord. Here are some of the most inspiring scriptures from the Bible:
Philippians 4:13 “I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”
Isaiah 41:10 “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”
Deuteronomy 31:6 “Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.“
Isaiah 40:31 “But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.“
1 Corinthians 10:13 “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.“
Exodus 15:2 “The Lord is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation; this is my God, and I will praise him, my father’s God, and I will exalt him.”
Ephesians 6:10 “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might.”
Deuteronomy 20:4 “For the Lord your God is he who goes with you to fight for you against your enemies, to give you the victory.”
2 Corinthians 12:9-10 “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.”
Joshua 1:9 “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”
I wrote this article several years ago now. It’s one of the articles I refer people to who are just starting or who are growing wearing in their chronic illness journey because it’s so uplifting to think of your trials, your struggles in this manner.
If you’ve read it before, take another few minutes to read it through again. I promise it will help you put things in a more positive light and a better perspective.
The Blessings of Pain
Okay. JoJo’s gone off the deep end! Brain fog has taken over and she’s completely out of her mind! I hear ya out there. You’ve stuck with me through some of my other unusual posts, but this one’s gone too far. Stick a fork in ‘er, she’s done! As someone who is in a fair amount of physical pain as I’m typing this, I understand your horror at this title, but give me a few minutes of your time and I think you’ll see my sanity returning and you’ll be blessed.
This idea started as a debate topic. You see, (those of you who may not have known me long) in a former life I was an author and speaker on communication skills at www.ArtofEloquence.com. I used to teach speech, debate and communication classes both online and off. Nowadays, I’m too tired, overwhelmed and in pain to run my business much less teach so I only do that on rare occasions. This month was one such occasion. I am teaching a homeschool co-op class on debate. One of the topics I picked was Pain is Good. I figured it was something with which most teens would be unfamiliar and would be a good life lesson as well as a great debate topic. Pain keeps us from more harm. Even babies would remove their hand from the fire, right?
As I began putting my week’s lesson plan together, it occurred to me that, while I am not a fan of pain (emotional or physical) itself, enduring it can bring some blessings that I’d never have had the opportunity to experience had I been healthy. There are some lessons you only learn from pain. There are some lessons life cannot teach without it. There are some blessings you will never notice unless you’ve been through a day where you felt your head would explode or years when you thought if you woke up without pain one day, you would HAVE to be in heaven.
Pain itself is bad, but enduring pain can be a good thing and bring blessings you’d never have known-but you have look for them. They can’t always be seen by the naked eye or heard above the white noise of the TV. But as soon as I reveal to you how pain can bring blessings, you’ll never look at it the same way again. There are several ways in which pain can bring blessings into your life and the lives of those you touch.
1. Pain makes you compassionate.
The people who have suffered the most, tend to be the most compassionate. The more struggles a person goes through, the more they have compassion for others who are going through difficult times. I’ve known some amazingly compassionate people who consistently take time to support, uplift and help others. I almost always find that they have suffered a great deal in their own lives and have a calling to be of help to others. There is a saying,…
Last week, I talked about how we, who have endured difficult health issues, have been blessed to be born without a comfort zone. I shared how I feel it has strengthened me both mentally and spiritually. This week, I’d like to share why that’s especially important these days and especially during Covid Times.
Have you noticed how even though society has so many “modern conveniences,” people complain that life isn’t easy? People seem to be offended by everything. They can’t seem to cope well with things the older generations thought were just part of life. I believe most marriages end in divorce because the younger generations no longer view relationships as something requiring work. They lost that loving feeling and so they simply move on.
Success in anything takes work whether it’s a business, a relationship, or an education. Unfortunately, fewer people these days will put forth the energy required to do so.
When I first began writing this blog post, I was doing it from my iPad because my laptop hard drive was failing and I was backing up all my work. I was typing with a stylus because my fingers shake due to Essential Tremors if I use my fingers directly. I was working on changes to my site on paper even though I had a massive headache. Why? You just do what you can with what you have.
It’s how you look at things. If you look for the bad, you’ll see it. If you look for the good, you’ll see that too! You’re not entitled to an easy life. A lot of American young people think so but it’s not true. The founding fathers knew this. We with chronic illness know this all too well.
If I go back a generation in my family, I see a much stronger work ethic than I see today. My great grandparents and my grandfather came to this country from what was then Russian to start over with nothing. My grandfather didn’t speak the language, but he worked hard and eventually was Vice President of a large Union in N.Y. He provided very nicely for my father and his brother.
My husband and his family came from Mexico with nothing not speaking the language. They worked hard. Made a life. They came for the American dream, but that dream was an opportunity, not an entitlement.
A job is hard work. A business is hard work. Marriage is hard work. Life is hard work. I think most people many years ago used to understand this. I think the younger generation can learn a lot from our ancestors. I also think they can learn a lot from those of us with chronic illness who don’t have a comfort zone. But I also think we should stop and think once in a while to learn from ourselves.
No, life with chronic illness isn’t easy. But life never promised it would be. And sometimes, if we focus on the strength it takes to get through a day with chronic illness, we can be proud of what we accomplished!
It’s not easy having chronic illness, is it? Nope. It’s not something I’d wish for nor is it something I’d wish upon even those who “done me wrong.” I’ve written several times before about how I’ve found blessings inside the struggles: joys that were there inside the trials right along side the pain and fatigue. However, what I never wrote about before is how the struggle itself has strengthened me and my faith as nothing else could have!
Just like how working out builds a strong body (unless you have chronic illness lol) or how an athlete trains to be strong enough to win the big race, our struggles can strengthen us and mine have!
I’m sure you’ve seen those memes on social media about how “Nobody ever accomplished anything while in their comfort zone.” “You gotta get out of your comfort zone if you expect to do anything with your life!” Well, I’ll bet you were thinking, “I have chronic illness. I don’t HAVE a comfort zone!” And you’re probably right!
If you’re one of us (chronic illness/issues sufferers), you don’t think in terms of comfort. You think in terms of what is the least painful, the least energy zapping. You just work to make sure your pain or fatigue or discomfort isn’t as bad as it could be because there isn’t any real comfort inside the Chronic Illness Zone, is there?
Well, this got me thinking that so much of my life has be filled with not only pain and fatigue, but difficulties of various kinds. I was blessed to be born without a comfort zone. I was a painfully shy kid. What’s the worst thing for a shy kid? Having to meet new people! But that’s exactly what I had to do every few years. New town, new state, new school, new neighborhood…
I couldn’t look people in the eye when I talked to them. Shy people usually stay in the background: The Comfort Zone of the Socially Awkward. But not me! I couldn’t. I was always the new kid. The one dressed different, the one who called jeans “dungarees.” The one who pronounced SePULveda Blvd as SepulVEda. The one who was 4′ 10″. The one who had a NY accent in Virginia. I stuck out like a sore thumb.
And shyness wasn’t the only area of my life that was difficult either. As I’ve shared many times here on Life Beyond Surviving, I’ve had chronic illness and other chronic conditions most of my life. What I haven’t written about much is all the other ways in which life has been challenging for me.
I’m one of the only Christians in my family. I’m of Jewish heritage, but most of my family is either atheist or agnostic. Some are/were Jehovah’s Witnesses. It has always been a bit challenging at family gatherings.
In the 33 years we’ve been married, my husband and I have had quite a number of issues to deal with. My husband was born in Mexico so we’ve had some issues with racism and early on in our marriage we had some financial issues we had to overcome.
Several years ago he lost his permanent job and he’s been doing consulting work ever since. It is rather challenging, especially when the economy isn’t doing well or, say, a pandemic hits and jobs aren’t as plentiful. He’s had a lot of times in between assignments where we had to find alternative ways to make extra money.
Once, during a year of his unemployment, we had to work quite hard in our own business buying HUD homes and reselling them to real estate investors to fix up and resell. It was especially difficult to invest in real estate this way because HUD doesn’t like investors and they made it increasingly difficult for us to make a profit, but we persevered. We did earn a living doing this for a while.
We also worked for a while selling our own products on Amazon until we found that Amazon, while a FABULOUS platform for buyers, is very biased against sellers. I was constantly on the phone with a lawyer trying to resolve oversights where Amazon allowed scammers to spoof our listings and then sell subpar versions of our products or send none at all to the customer.
I’ve had to work 10x harder than most at just about everything. Maybe you have too. And yet, I’d still say I was blessed to be born without a comfort zone because I never felt hard work was an option. It’s just part of life. Knowing that made my adjustments easier because most of achievement is mindset, isn’t it?
Not having ever had a comfort zone has benefited me greatly because I assume I’ll have to work hard…at EVERYTHING! I expect it. I plan for it. I embrace it. Life with challenges has taught me to endure, but also to see the joy not only in what hard work brings, but in what hard work does. It builds character and it builds trust and faith in the Lord to bring you through just about everything the world can throw at you!
I’ve said it before. God uses everything for our good and we can use everything for our own good as well. Just like the butterfly struggling to get out of its cocoon builds strength in its wings, our own struggles build strength in US. I choose to look at life’s struggles and difficulties this way and it has helped me to see more of the joy in life and build my own strength to be who I need to be while I’m doing it.
When you are first dealing with something difficult, all your energy is on how to get through, how to move on, and then how to cope with it. After you begin to find your way, you can go back to the Lord and see what He has in store for you to share or to do.
All month long, I’ve been talking about this process. When you finally have a handle on this thing called chronic illness, even if it’s changing, you can take some of the energy you have and put it into the mission or the work the Lord designed you for. When you do, you will find that the joy in your life is greatly increased because you found your purpose and it isn’t just getting through life with chronic illness!
When you write your own story. At the end of the day or the end of your life, do you want to be the one always complaining who others pittied or do you want to be the one who did what she could with what she had and relied upon God to bless her? Be the overcomer, the one who persevered!
Do you know what makes a good story? What makes you read or watch a movie and feel something for the characters? Is it the success or the struggle that was overcome?
My life would be a pretty boring story if I just did everything great the first time and it came easy. Life doesn’t work that way. We don’t admire people who are a success if that success was handed to them on a silver platter. The ones who were born with a silver spoon in their mouths. Those people don’t inspire others because that almost never happens, does it?
So far this month, I’ve talked about not trying to swim upstream, but allowing God to guide you and about how to look for the good in your struggles for a more positive attitude. This week in part three, I’d like to tell you something that will probably be the most uplifting thing you can take in during a time of crisis.
You are more than your chronic illness. I originally wrote this as a way of expressing my feelings about race. So many people talk about race as if that’s all someone is. But each of us is so much more than the color of our skin…or the chronic illness that affects our lives. Your life is the sum total of what God gave you, the experiences you have, and what YOU CHOOSE to do with it.
Two children of the same parents. One grows up to feel his upbringing was difficult and his parents weren’t this or that and that’s why he has trouble in life. The other grows up to believe that since he was poor and his parents didn’t do xyz for him, he learned to do for himself. Two children, same situation, two different lives.
It isn’t the difficulties we have in life that define us. It’s what we DO with them that counts. It’s what we make of them that matters. It’s what we learn from them that inspires…both us and those around us.
I wrote this poem a long time ago. I’ve shared it over the years many times both here and on social media. But I want you to really read the words this time. Take to heart what it says to your spirit.
You ARE more! If you stop swimming upstream and allow God to guide you, you’ll see that. He always knew you’d have these difficulties and He factored that in to the mission He gave you. Just as He did me. Your mission may be different than mine, but you have one. I pray the Lord show you what it is and how you can fulfill it despite or maybe because of your chronic illness.
Next week, I’ll be back to inspire you to inspire others!