Chronic Illness New Year’s Resolutions – Part 4

Be ye strong therefore, and let not your hands be weak: for your work shall be rewarded.” – 2 Chronicles 15:7

So far we’ve talked about how to make baby steps toward some health, business, and family goals or resolutions. This week, I’d like to share about your ministry. Just because we’re physically weak, doesn’t mean there isn’t work that God has for us to do. It just may take a different form than we may think.

You are not useless because you are chronically ill. There are still joys in your life and there is still a purpose to it. God has designed you for something greater than just to suffer and struggle with chronic issues. I know from experience.

The best knowledge is experience and the worst experience at the very least teaches us lessons that help us understand and help others. The worst of my chronic problems have taught me how others feel and qualifies me not only fo understand them, but to help them. Whether I do that by standing up in front of a large congregation and speak to thousands or I witness to just one on one.

What’s the deepest need you had when in the throws of the most difficult of times? It’s to be understood. What was it you desired from others at that time? It wasn’t advice. It was a hug or someone just to say I understand. And that’s exactly what you can do and be for others!

How you do that may differ from how I do that. I have a Facebook group. I also have this blog. This is my ministry. You may have a different calling.

You may be called to just go online and uplift others. You may be called to post uplifting quotes and pictures on social media. You may be called to find humor in your difficulties that will bring a much-needed giggle to a weary heart in need. You might have a talent to knit infant clothes to give to newborns whose family can’t afford much. You might have a call on your heart to organize the collection of things to give to the homeless.

Your spiritual ministry could be online, via text, a weekly phone or online prayer group, to reach out to others who are hurting on phone or online or to write books. Or you could volunteer to help monitor an online group you’re in. There are any number of things you may have a gifting or calling for that you could do from your home where you don’t need to expend energy you don’t have to go anywhere you can’t get to.

What gifts or talents do you have? What could you do that might minister to others? How might you plan or make a resolution to help others with that gift or talent? I pray this series has helped you to resolve to make 2020 a great year in the Lord! God bless!!

Delight yourself also in the Lord, And He shall give you the desires of your heart. Commit[a] your way to the Lord, Trust also in Him, And He shall bring it to pass.” – Psalm 37:4-5

The Marriage Secret

Genesis 2:24: “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.”

My husband and I are married 33yrs today. We were together five years before that so we’ve been together for 38 years! We’ve been through good times and bad times. At times, the bad times have almost overshadowed the good times especially when we were going through several chronic illnesses, family issues, and financial stresses all at the same time.

People often ask me what’s the secret to being married for so long, especially as so many call it quits before the first decade. I’ll tell you. It’s not all of the things most Hollywood movies say it is. It’s commitment.

Marriage isn’t just love. Love will not see you through. Many couples divorce still feeling love for one another; it’s just that they never learned to live through the tough stuff. Without commitment, love may not even survive.

Here’s what marriage really is:
It’s facing financial ruin together. It’s hours praying over a virus that may take your child’s life. It’s holding each other through the loss of a pregnancy. It’s building a life together again after a devastating job loss. It’s moving across the country together not knowing a soul and leaving all your family behind so that you only have each other to rely on.

It’s going without so your husband can get what he needs to get to work. It’s working with a bum knee and the flu because you can’t take off from a temp job without sacrificing your son’s college tuition. It’s crying together after watching your MIL dying on a video chat because you can’t get there. It’s coffee on Sunday mornings before church reminiscing about all the little things your kids did and how they’ve grown up so fast.

It’s not the romantic dinners or fancy vacations you look back on that make you smile. It’s the thought that the other did the little things that cost them dearly just because they wanted to make your life a little easier!

Marriages that last are made up of two imperfect people committed to getting through those tough times…relying upon God to help them through the tough times. Because there WILL be tough times!

Ephesians 4:2: “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.”

Chronic Illness New Year’s Resolutions – Part 3

A friend loves at all times, And a brother is born for adversity.” – Proverbs 17:17

I’ve been talking all this month about the ways in which we, who have chronic illness, can make goals or as some would call them at this time of year New Year’s Resolutions. So far, I’ve talked about health and business or career goals we can still have even given the fact that we lack energy and are in pain. This week, I’d like to focus on family.

Part 3: Family
Family is so important, but it can be difficult to take care of our family when we’re always tired and in pain. I know so many of us feel guilty for not being able to do things with and for our kids or husbands. We beat ourselves up for not being able to cook meals for our church family. Instead of going places or doing things for our family, we may be able to be of help in other non-energetic ways.

Driving is hard for me since my tremors have increased. It takes a lot more energy than I usually possess to shower, dress, drive, and visit. However, I can text or call instead. I can skype or go online and visit with people virtually. That keeps me connected. Instead of making goals to get out more, I’ve resolved to be out more. Invite people over, connect online, be involved more in groups, help others more, call more, keep in touch more often.

Sometimes when a family member is down or has some difficulties, it can be hard to help financially or to be there to help with errands or housework or to cook. But I can be of help by making it a point to text an uplifting quote per day or call weekly to be a sounding board. It’s possible to make a special craft item and ship it to them or write a poem and email it.

I once made it a point to text an uplifting or funny quote every day to a friend who was going through a tough time with family. I couldn’t be there and she didn’t have time to talk, but she found it helpful and uplifting to see my text every morning. She said it really helped her through a very tough time in her life. Just because you don’t think it’s a big gesture, doesn’t mean it isn’t important and meaningful to them. There’s always some way to connect and help others in your family.

My sister and I live across the country from each other and my mom lives in a third state seven hours from our mom. We started planning a Generational conference call once every few months so we could feel as if we were there with each other and chat in real-time. It was my mom, both of her daughters and, on one call, our daughters as well. It wasn’t anything I couldn’t do, but it would never have happened if we hadn’t resolved to plan it.

What would you like to do with family? What could you plan instead? What would be doable yet also meaningful? Plan it for 2020. While we all have adversity, we can all plan some way to connect with family and help one another whether they are your parents or your children.

A friend loves at all times, And a brother is born for adversity.” – Proverbs 17:17

Next week, I’ll share part four on our spiritual lives. Please check back!

Chronic Illness New Year’s Resolutions – Part 2

There are many plans in a man’s heart, Nevertheless the Lord’s counsel—that will stand.” -Proverbs 19:21

While it can be difficult to make plans while struggling with chronic illness, I shared last week that these goals, or resolutions if you like, don’t need to be grandiose. Last time, I talked about health goals. This week, I’d like to share some ideas for business goals or resolutions if you prefer.

Part 2: Business
So many with chronic illness no longer have a job let alone a career. After all, pain and zero energy is a tough way to make a living. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t earn money. While it’s difficult to get to a job every day, it’s becoming more common for companies to allow employees to work from home. It’s also possible to make money by doing creative things at home due to a little discovery called the world wide web.

If you’ve had to leave a job you either loved or hated, you can make a resolution to find another way of earning a living or contributing to your household finances with any marketable skills and talents you may have. The first thing you’ll need to do is to take inventory of your skills, talents, and interests. What do you like to do? Is it something that you could sell on eBay, Amazon, or on your own website?

The first resolution you can make in 2020 is to discover what talent you have that you might be able to earn from. Next, make a date by which you’ll be done with your soul searching and information gathering. Then, take baby steps to bring that about.

Do you crochet? Sew? Craft? Paint? I’m a writer. I love to put words to story and I love it when what I write can move people. I can write any time I have the energy. I can do it online in my blog or put a book together which is one of my resolutions for 2020.

I know a woman who wrote instrumental songs that expressed how she felt about the Lord. She planned to put them all on a recording and offer the album for sale. I knew a few writers who make a decent living and some editors who do as well.

There are many plans in a man’s heart, Nevertheless the Lord’s counsel—that will stand.” -Proverbs 19:21

What’s a talent that God gave you? How can you use it to make an extra income or a living? I’d love to hear your thoughts. I’ll be back next week to talk about the third area of our lives that we can plan for.

Chronic Illness New Year’s Resolutions-Part 1

Delight yourself also in the Lord, And He shall give you the desires of your heart. Commit[a] your way to the Lord, Trust also in Him, And He shall bring it to pass.” – Psalm 37:4-5

Everyone else is out there making big plans and calling them New Year’s Resolutions. I’m here just trying to see if this new medication is going to help me with one of my issues. But that’s okay because I’m not like everyone else. I have chronic illness.

Chronic issues make lots of things difficult. It’s hard enough to commit to attending a party because you never know how much energy you’ll have at that point or how much pain you’ll be in, but at this time of year, it’s especially hard to make plans for your future. That being said, if you look at it differently, you can do just that.

Who says New Year’s Resolutions need to be grandiose? There’s no law that says you’re a failure if you don’t invent time travel or discover a cure for cancer. You might notice that most “normal” people aren’t planning to rule the world. While you may not be able to plan for perfect health or wealth, you can plan to take a step toward a realistic goal or to something new you have wanted to try.

There are four aspects of our lives I’d like to talk about in this series and the first one is rather obvious for those of us with chronic illness: health.

Part 1: Health
The most common New Year’s Resolution is to lose weight…x number of pounds by such and such a date. At the time I’m writing this, I’d love to lose 50lbs! I’m a short woman (5′ Nuthin’) with small bones so the charts say I should weigh 100lbs. Now, before you all have time to think that this is unrealistic for any woman (even my height or lack thereof), I spent most of my adult life at 103lbs and was quite comfortable at that weight.

While I’d love to be even 103 pounds again, I have a hard time wrapping my head around the monumental task of losing that much weight since I’ve gained so much after menopause and haven’t been able to lose any in the three years post-hysterectomy. Most of the challenge in losing weight for those of us who are chronically ill is the fatigue. It’s hard enough to have the energy to take a shower much less to exercise enough to keep 50lbs off!

But I can resolve to walk a certain number of days per week. I might set a goal to lose 10 or 20 or 30 pounds. Baby steps. They say even if you travel at the rate of a turtle, you’re still moving forward. Moving forward in our goals is a BIG thing for us chronic illness warriors because it’s a much greater accomplishment than anything we ever did as a healthy person. It takes a lot more commitment and strength. Don’t ever discount small accomplishments! Those baby steps add up to giant leaps after a while.

Delight yourself also in the Lord, And He shall give you the desires of your heart. Commit[a] your way to the Lord, Trust also in Him, And He shall bring it to pass.” – Psalm 37:4-5

Some goals can’t be cut in pieces. Some things need preliminary actions in order to come to pass. So, another way to go is to resolve to eat better, learn about any supplements that may help your chronic issues, or sleep better.

They say that it’s not really a goal until there is something tangible to measure and has a date by which you’ll accomplish it. However, that measure doesn’t have to be a number of pounds and that date doesn’t have to be when it’s all lost. It can simply be that you eat better this year or that you spend a few hours a week researching supplements that can help you.

What’s a health goal you’d like to set that you will resolve to work on in 2020? Leave a comment here with your thoughts. Next week, I’ll be back to discuss one of the other four areas of life that we can make a resolution to improve this year. I hope you join me!

Happy New Year, Survivors!

I started this blog almost three years ago with the intent to support those with chronic illness and conditions because it’s the chronic part of those terms that make life so much more difficult. It can be a lonely life because chronic issues can limit what we can do or how much of it we can do. It’s isolating.

My heart was to bring some joy, information, support, and humor to a group of weary people who often feel alone and hopeless to control a life they don’t recognize anymore.

My goal is to help others to find the road to living a Life Beyond Surviving! I pray you’ll join me in 2020 to make it your best year with chronic illness yet!

I’d love to hear how this blog has helped you so far. Please leave a comment with your thoughts and suggestions for future posts. Until then, Happy New Year, Survivors!

Merry Christmas, Survivors!

I pray that this blog has been a blessing to you in 2019. I hope you keep coming back for inspiration, support, understanding, and tips. It’s my mission to uplift those with chronic illness and other chronic conditions and to give them the support they need not only to live better with their chronic issues, but to live a life beyond surviving!

May we continue to journey together in 2020 to bridge the gap from here to there.

Merry Christmas! May God bless you and your family!

One of the Worst Things to Say to a Believer Who is Hurting-Repost

I want to follow up on my two-part series on Polly Positive to bring you this article I wrote many years ago for my Art of Eloquence communication blog. I was talking about how we communicate with those who are struggling with chronic illness actually affects them, even if the person’s intentions are good. While Polly’s intentions are to bring the person back to Jesus, the timing isn’t right and the message that comes across is quite damaging and, in fact, not biblical:

Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.” -Proverbs 16:24

Sad

I’ve seen it so many times. A sister in the Lord opens up to share a struggle she is going through in the hopes that the fellowship will bring strength to a weary heart. Instead of support, sympathy or understanding, she receives condemnation by well-meaning and faith-filled believers. In place of words of peace and comfort, they rebuke the poor sinner for not having enough faith. They remind her of the mustard seed, how faith can move mountains and how big God is, but what does that do to her suffering? Does it relieve her suffering or does it, in fact, increase it and place the blame squarely on her?

This is actually one of the worst things you can communicate to a believer who is hurting. Why? Because what you’re saying is:

1. Your suffering is your fault

By telling a believer that she doesn’t have enough faith in God, you are telling her that she wouldn’t be suffering if she only had more faith. Since she either doesn’t believe she has little faith or doesn’t see how she can have more, she feels you are telling her that she is ONLY suffering because of her own lack of faith. Essentially, this belittles her suffering. After all, people don’t feel as sorry for those who cause their own suffering as we do for those who are suffering through no fault of their own.

2. You wouldn’t suffer if you only had more faith

After being told she has caused her own suffering through unbelief, the only option given her is more belief. This is sort of like telling someone “Be happy!” Have you ever been upset and been faced with a situation in which you had to go out and put on your happy face? It was difficult, wasn’t it? Magnify that tenfold and think how difficult it would be to put on your happy face after having lost a loved one to cancer or after being faced with financial ruin. Can they do it? I’m sure some could, but what does it require? It usually requires a time of mourning, a time of rebuilding after a period of support and strength that comes from fellowship. Telling someone to have faith after you just told them they didn’t have any, isn’t helpful and it can be a huge detriment to their ability to bounce back after a devastating event.

3. Your suffering is not going to stop until you have more faith

This poor hurting soul who was reaching out for comfort and strength is now frustrated because she is being told that, no matter how the struggle began, it is now her fault, the only cure is more belief and she cannot find an ounce more in her suffering so it’s never going to end. She is now convinced her suffering will go on indefinitely! Struggles are difficult enough when we believe they are somewhat temporary, but when we see no end in sight, struggles take on new depths of sorrow.

We can all build our faith. Even the most faith-filled Christian can become even stronger in the Lord, but this growing in faith usually comes after a period of mourning the loss at the root of the struggle and a period of gathering strength from family, friends and the Lord.

Telling someone their suffering comes from their unbelief is unbiblical. Here are just three examples from scripture:

1. If all suffering comes from not having enough faith, why was Paul suffering?

And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure.” -2 Corinthians 12:7

2. If all suffering can be reversed by having more faith, why wasn’t Paul healed?

For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me.” -2 Corinthians 12:8

3. If Christians are not supposed to discuss their feelings when they are suffering, how can you explain Job?

“Even to day is my complaint bitter: my stroke is heavier than my groaning.” –Job 23:2

And the LORD turned the captivity of Job, when he prayed for his friends: also the LORD gave Job twice as much as he had before.” –Job 42:10

Telling a person who is suffering, especially when the suffering is new, that they simply need more faith is not only unhelpful, but it can frustrate and depress the person even further. This is where more communication skill is needed. Be careful at this vulnerable time in this believer’s life that you are part of the solution and not part of the problem

Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers.” Ephesians 4:29

Please share your comments, thoughts, and experiences here.  I’d love to hear from you.

Life Beyond Surviving Memes

I have created a batch of memes to post on social media and in the Life Beyond Surviving group on Facebook. Some were created specifically for chronic illness and others were created as JoJoisms, but they fit this site too.

I don’t think most of them are posted anywhere on the site so I wanted to post a few of the best ones. You may find some you relate to.

Dealing with Polly Positive Part two

Last week, I talked about why it’s impossible to be Polly Positive all the time and that it’s normal and even healthy to be negative at times. It’s normal to allow yourself time to be sad or angry, just don’t move there permanently.

Knowing this and doing it are two different things though because you have to learn to respond to Polly in one way or another. So, what is the best way to respond to Polly Positive when she strikes? How you choose to respond is going to be different depending upon your personality, your mood, and what was said, but I do have some ideas. It’s best to have a few options in mind for when brain fog or anger sets in. Here are a few ideas for you.

My best advice for times when something is said in passing or it’s someone new is to ignore. Silence is a great option because it requires little effort. It also doesn’t require any thought on your part and is a fairly quick resolution. I let the other person think what they want as long as I don’t need to expend any effort. This is my go-to option for when I’m tired, frustrated, or don’t really care what the other person thinks of me because I’m probably never going to see them again anyway.

Method number two is to gently remind. If I have more time, Polly is really pushing the issue, or she’s doing it in front of friends who are of the same opinion that it’s possible to be positive every moment of your life no matter what. “Everyone gets frustrated (or angry or down or sad) once in a while.” is a great response because most people would have to agree. “I just need to vent.” is another great one because most have felt this way too. “It’s not being negative to feel down once in a while; it’s only negative if you live there.” is another great one. Find something you feel comfortable with and have that at the ready just in case you happen upon Polly at some point.

Sometimes this can lead to a more lengthy discussion of what negative really means and if you’ve got the time and inclination to get into this discussion, by all means, do! However, there are times when it’s too taxing to get into it, especially if the one you’re talking to is just not willing to listen. It’s in these situations that I say something like, “If you dealt with all of the issues I have to, you might feel differently, but I just don’t have the energy to discuss it with you right now.”

Whenever I see a person who is unwilling to listen to reason, I deem that person toxic to my well being and I walk away from the situation or the person for a while or for good. This is an extreme situation and I don’t find this often, but it is an option you have. You should never feel that you need to put up with the stress of someone who is constantly berating you for not living up to whatever perfection they require. I haven’t had to use this technique too often, but I give myself permission to do so, if necessary.

My only caveat here is if that toxic person is a close relative or lives in your home. If that is the case, I suggest you ask them to put themselves in your shoes and/or have them go with you to your doctor’s appointment and have your doctor explain it to them.

*I do understand that there are still some doctors who don’t believe their patients. If that is the case, my prayers are with you.

What are things Polly has said to you that were unhelpful? How did you respond? How would you wish you had responded? How can that help you in the future?