Vlog Series: 20 Steps to Finding Joy in the Trials- Introduction

Hi Survivors! I have a TON of great info I recorded for the Facebook group I had going, but they are very long videos. I wanted to make them available to everyone who could use a way to find the joy in their own struggles, but the videos are very long.  The first webinar, 20 Steps to Finding Joy in the Trials was almost an hour long!

So, I chopped it up into bite-sized pieces that are more easily digested and internalized.  Here is the introduction:

The way this will work is: I will be releasing one video with one step to joy each week here on the blog.  So, make sure you come back or subscribe to the blog!

I pray each of these is a blessing in your life!

JoJo

Having Fun with Chronic Illness

So several of you asked for an update and here it is.

It was Needle Day the end of May. I had an EMG (they stab you with little needles to see if there is nerve damage…sounds like fun, right? ) that found neuropathy in my hands which is probably carpal tunnel.

Later that day I had the blood test for cancer markers which my Oncologist said still shows that I am cancer free!

It was a painful day, but the worst part was I had to wear a red wrap instead of a purple one.  Oh, the horror! ROFL

After seeing the neurologist again for his thoughts on the matter, I now have a few more diagnoses to add to the list.  Along with the neuropathy and growing arthritis, I now also have Essential Tremors.  This is usually familial but isn’t for me as nobody in my family knows of anyone else in the family who has/had it.

It isn’t serious like the Parkinson’s and such they ruled out and it is slow growing.  I’ve probably had it since I was in my late 20s. I thought it was a sugar problem as it was mostly in the mornings before I ate as well as several times I had what I thought was a reaction to too much sugar.  I’ve since limited my sugar intake.  However, I do poke myself in the eye with my mascara and have been known to spill my coffee if I’m not careful in the mornings.  Other than that, I’m good to go for a while. When I’m in my 70s or 80s and I begin to resemble Katherine Hepburn, the medical community may have some better treatments. Until then, I watch my sleep, sugar, food, and try not to stress too much when people think I’m nervous or on something. LOL

Since most of these diagnoses don’t show up in blood tests, I can confidently say that I’m NOT weird!  Now some of you may not agree, but to paraphrase Sheldon from The Big Bang Theory, I’m not weird; my doctor had me tested!

New Series Coming Soon!

Hi Survivors!

Been posting several different blog series in the last several months.  WHEW! My fingers are tired! ROFL

I’ve got a new series starting up in August. It’s based on a very long video I did for my Facebook group.  I’ll be posting a 20 part series once a week beginning in August.  It’s called 20 Steps to Finding Joy in the Trial.

Until then, I will be taking a hiatus from the blog for the summer.  We are getting ready to send our last kidling off to college and become empty nesters.  [insert sad face here]

He’s our second child of two Only Children.  They are over nine years apart so they seem like an only child.  This will be a big adjustment for us…ok for him too! ROFL

Praising God in the Storm: Part 6

Well, we’ve finally come to the end of this series.  I have just one more part of this process, and that’s to help someone else find their joy and praise God in THEIR storm.  While you may think this is something you do for others, it has a surprisingly positive effect on the person doing the encouraging as well.

You’ll find that in trying to lift someone else up, you are lifted higher yourself.  Part of that comes from the smile effect.  Smiling is contagious, so they smile, you smile. When you provide joy or happiness for others, you also feel joy yourself for having lifted someone else up…for having had some small part in bringing joy to another individual in trial of their own.

6. Help someone else

I know it sounds a bit backwards, but it can often feel good to be the solution for someone else’s problem.  Sometimes we are almost paralyzed by our fear or stuck in our sadness that we feel a complete lack of control over our lives.  It can feel empowering or at least uplifting to be the solution to something, no matter how small the issue is.  As they used to say back when I was a little girl, “try it; you’ll like it.

The other amazing thing about helping someone else is that it tends to be habit-forming.  The more you feel good helping others, the more you want to do it.  That not only increases your joy, but the joy around you.

You may not be able to become happy about your circumstances, but you can do things that bring you some joy.  This joy will help us see the blessings God has put in our lives and this will, eventually, allow us to thank God and even praise him in the storm.

It’s been an incredibly difficult year for my family.  As I said, I wrote this as much for me as I did for my readers.  I have read it over about three times this week as I have needed these words as much as any of you.  Please share your story. How can I pray for you?

 

Praising God in the Storm: Part 5

The storms and trials of life should always lead us back to the Lord.  We may need to take some time to cry and some time to find a way to put a smile back on our face in order to get past these feelings that accompany the desert of life, but it should always lead us back to the Lord.  I find that sometimes I need a little help with that and that’s where some fabulously uplifting devotionals come in.

5.Read encouraging devotionals

Some devotionals are designed to educate, some are designed to make you think, yet others are created to have you work through situations.  I’m not discussing those. They have their purpose, and I don’t deny they are important, but they aren’t what will get you through.

Another set of devotionals that are similar to the ones I’m talking about are the ones on being thankful.  I also don’t recommend those at the times of your life when trials, struggles, and burdens get you down.

The ones I’m talking about here are the ones that encourage you.  Bible Gateway has devotionals you can subscribe to that I have found helpful: Encouragement for Today, Devotions for Women and Devotions for Moms.  Look for things that have titles that are uplifting and encouraging.

A caution: I don’t recommend the one called Standing Strong in the Storm because it’s mostly about people who have endured religious persecution.  While that might be important to read or be inspiring at other times, I find that they are not something we can relate to when we are in the middle of stress.  Unless your struggle is religious persecution on a grand scale, I find I can’t relate to them, and they make me feel bad for even being upset about financial or health or relationship issues which doesn’t help me feel any better about my situation.

Many of the ones on Bible Gateway are video based so you can sit back and watch them.  These are great for when you’re so tired from burdens you can’t even concentrate on reading.

In addition to Bible Gateway, I find that Charles Stanley of www.intouch.org has a bunch of videos on various topics that are uplifting and have helped me in the past.  If I’m not mistaken, that one has (or had) a way to organize them and keep notes.  I, myself, keep a notebook with verses and ideas I like to be reminded of.  That’s actually, how I am able to write my articles…from the notes I took after having read or viewed something I thought was particularly helpful (or not).

I hope I’ve given you some practical information the past few weeks to get you started on your path to being able to praise God in the storm.  I will be praying for my readers that you not only come to a point where you can do that but that God will bless you and your family as well.

 

Praising God in the Storm: Part 4

Praising God in the storms of the trials of life is not easy, especially at first.  First, it’s often necessary to find things that can bring a smile to your face even in the midst of whatever it is you’re in the midst of.  That is going to be different for each person.  So, what things bring you joy?

4.Do things that bring you joy

Look at pretty pictures of God’s world and remember how everything is delicately balanced for us and given for us to use.  It’s hard to look at the beauty of God’s world and not feel some amount of joy.

Listen to uplifting music and sing along or sing harmony.  I am a “wannabe” musician. I used to write songs and I was a voice major in college before I switched to Speech Communication.  I can’t help but feel better when I hear beautiful music and sing along.  It usually makes me feel better to sing along to praise and worship music sometimes the same song over and over again.

Call a friend.  Sometimes you need a real, living person you can talk things over with.  Just talking through our feelings can help us feel a bit better because we have expressed them and someone cared enough to listen.  Many times we aren’t looking for a solution because we already know what our options are, but sometimes we may be surprised at our friend’s ability to help us find one!  Even if nothing gets resolved, you will probably find yourself feeling better just because you were able to share your feelings with a good and trusted friend.

One caution.  There is a strong possibility that there will be a time in your trails when things get to feel too much where you can’t even envision yourself having fun or laughing.  That’s ok.  There will be those times.  Take some time to be mad, sad, or cry.  I wrote an article once called Sometimes You Need a Pity Party for just that reason.  But for those times when you don’t need a pity party, you can find things that will help you get out of the hole trials have tried to bury you inside.  You can crawl out with the help of these techniques, a good friend, or a good cry, and some serious prayer and comfort from the Lord.

 

Praise God in the Storm: Part 3

So far I’ve talked about praising God in the storm by taking it a bit at a time and by looking for the blessings in bad things that didn’t happen because God protected us.  This week, I’d like to talk more about the difference between what is defined as joy and happiness.

Joy and happiness are often used interchangeably, but they really are two different things.

3. Remember that joy and happiness are two different things

Keep things in proper perspective.  Happiness, as defined by Merriam Webster as good fortune or prosperity, a state of well-being and contentment, joy or a pleasurable or satisfying experience.

Joy is listed as the emotion evoked by well-being, success, or good fortune or by the prospect of possessing what one desiresdelight, the expression or exhibition of such emotion, gaiety, a state of happiness or felicity, bliss, a source or cause of delight.

So happiness is dependent upon external circumstances, whereas joy exists in spite of whatever is going on around us and is a result of what’s happening on the inside. You can still have joy even though you are not happy because you can have a hope because you are in God’s will and will be rewarded in heaven even if you aren’t here on earth.  You can be joyous in your strength or your endurance or your obedience even if you are unhappy about your health or your finances or your relationships.

I can’t tell you how often I’ve been unhappy about the situations I’ve found myself in. As I write this, I’m unhappy about the fact that my dh will be losing his job…again, the fact that it’s taken much more time, energy and money to get our Amazon mug business off the ground which we feel will help us during the job transition, and the fact that I still have several health issues that keep me in pain and devoid of energy.  And those are just the highlights!  But…though I may take time to be frustrated and sad, I know in my heart that there is a loving God who is with me and who has made a way for me beyond the temporary that is this fallen world.  That is my joy despite the fact that I’m deeply unhappy with my circumstances at times.

Happy is fleeting and relies on outside forces.  Joy is eternal and comes from within.  Joy won’t always make you happy, but it certainly helps in times of trial.

Take some time to think about what makes you joyful as opposed to just happy.

 

Praising God in the Storm: Part 2

Now that we understand that finding our joy means praising God in the storm and that requires baby steps at first (and periodically by the way when things get difficult as they tend to do), we need to also begin to think about blessings we may not have ever even noticed.  We can get so caught up in what has happened, should have happened, shouldn’t have happened, and might happen in the future, that we often forget to notice all the times in our lives we should be grateful for all the things great and small that God has done behind the scenes that we never even realized or thought much about.  Doing so can help us to see even more blessings and feel God near when struggles take over our thoughts and feelings bringing a cloud of despair over us.

2. Blessings for worst not happening

In the midst of terrible pain, it’s often hard to see what could be worse and, to be honest, we don’t often care.  We just know where we are now is bad.  However, looking at the bright side can truly make a person thankful because, believe it or not, there are so many situations where we could be worse off.

Food prices up? Praise God that you have the money to buy them.  Health bad? Praise God that you have the time to rest.  Sick? As you pray for healing be thankful it isn’t fatal.  Serious illness?  Be thankful that there is still hope.  And if a loved one has passed away, praise God he is no longer suffering and is with Jesus in heaven.

Now, these things may sound easy to some, but they are not at all easy to do when you are in the middle of a struggle especially when that struggle has already taken a toll on you for many years.  However, if you start small, are consistent and build, your faith will increase, your sorrow will lift and your joy will return even if you aren’t happy about your circumstances.

In the midst of despair, sadness and being overwhelmed with struggle, we may find it difficult to just pick ourselves up by our Christian bootstraps and just “be happy.”  However, these little things have helped me get just one step closer to being thankful and have reminded me that God is there with me and He’s working on my behalf even if I can’t feel Him through all that life throws at me.  I pray they are blessings to you and you can begin to see how you can be thankful and praise God during your struggles as well.

So, do you remember a time when you had a near miss car accident?  A “lucky event” when things could have been so much worse?  Was there a time in your life when things went very well and you didn’t think about how incredible they were and remember to thank God for these “coincidences” that brought them to you?  I sure do!

When we lived in Southern California, we used to drive six hours to visit my folks in ARIDzona.  On one such trip out, we noticed that our brakes started squeaking.  By the time we arrived, they were squeaking kind of loudly, but all the men in the family (with a collective 100 yrs of automotive experience) thought we were safe to drive home and have it taken care of after that weekend.  Well, they were all wrong!

We were driving back on a holiday weekend when traffic was horrendous! It was stop and go (mostly stop) all the way and took us several hours longer than it usually did.  Halfway or so in, the brakes were soooo loud, but they felt fine and so we just kept going.  At night, what much else was there to do? With each time my husband hit the brakes, the sound got louder, the brakes got touchier, and we got more frightened with our young kids in the back of the car.  As we pulled into the driveway of our home, the brakes finally gave out as we coasted into our garage in total safety.

There are many such stories I could recount to you of horrifying things that never happened because God had His hand upon us.  But there are countless other times I may never even noticed when God sent us on a small journey so as to avoid a major traffic wreck or some other such horrific event we never even heard about much less reflected upon.

My point is, not only should we be grateful to the Lord for glaringly obvious mishaps we were spared, but also for all the little coincidences orchestrated by Him in order to so completely avoid tragedy that we never even knew it.

What can you think of that could have been worse, but for the grace of God was not?

 

Praising God in the Storm Series: Part 1

This is from an article I wrote a long while back for Examiner.com and was expanded upon a few years ago. I am going to expand this topic even further in this new series in order to build upon the series I just completed about how Paul was able to find the joy amidst his trials.  Now that we know how to find the joy, it’s important to fully understand how to praise God in the midst of our trials because, I think, that can be the hardest part of finding the joy.  This will be a six part weekly series and I begin with the introduction from the previous article to set the tone and give us the first step. 

Most Christians have heard many times how we are to praise God in the storm, but what has always frustrated me is that nobody has ever told us how to do that.  It’s hard to just begin feeling thankful when you’re in the midst of a financial mess or a loved one’s death.  Merely understanding that you should do something doesn’t help you do it.

All devotionals on this topic will tell you to read the Bible and pray.  This is obvious since we are trying to get closer to God and further away from our pain or struggle.  This is also something we should do when we are not struggling.  But just reading the Bible when you are struggling may not help your attitude turn to gratitude and you may not even know how to pray for a situation, especially if it has been a long and confusing one.

There are many devotionals on thankfulness that talk about this so I’m not going to spend much time on it since you’ve probably read enough of them to quote them verbatim.  I’ll just say that it’s important to continue to pray and read the scriptures even when we are at our wit’s end and even when we are no longer able to envision that God would help us because, the moment we no longer seek God, we begin to drift away from Him.  “Trouble and anguish have taken hold on me: yet thy commandments are my delights.” -Psalm 119:143

After many years upon this earth I have found some things that have helped me to become more thankful and bring me to the point where I can praise God during the storms of my life.  By the way…I wrote this as much for me as I did for my readers.

1. Start small and build

Thank Him for whatever blessings you can think of, even if you have a hard time coming up with things you are thankful for and even if you don’t feel very thankful when you write it or say it.  There is an old saying, “act as if.”  If you begin to thank God for the blessings, no matter how small, in your life, you will begin to see more and feel it more as you go.

Somehow my attitude changes when I concentrate on the little blessings.  I remember an old saying my relatives had when I was a child, “thank God for small favors.”  It has become a popular secular saying that has come to mean something quite different so I don’t suggest you actually say this to yourself.  I think it must have started out meaning that we should thank God for the small blessings in our lives to help us see the blessings He has given us.  Unfortunately, what it has come to mean is a snarky commentary that God only grants us small favors.

See how your attitude changes when you say, “thank God for small favors” instead of “thank you, Lord, for these little blessings?”  One suggests that’s all we expect the Lord to give us and the other reminds us that these are just the beginnings of blessings God wants to shower upon us.  That one little communication change changes everything.

Think back to all the times when you had just missed a disaster.  How do you think that miracle happened?  Envision what God must have been doing to protect you and then feel the love that lead God to that act.  I remember a time when we drove from California to ARIDzona to visit my folks.  On the way there, we heard the brakes begin to screech.  All the men at the event thought it wasn’t a major issue so we didn’t drive the car during our visit and headed home where we planned to have them repaired.  There was a great deal of traffic that holiday on the way back and got progressively worse on that six hour drive home.  We were able to make it all the way home and, as we coasted into the garage, the brakes completely failed leaving usunharmed and safely in our garage.  Thank you, Jesus, for all the disasters we avoided that night alone!

Think back to all the times when NOTHING bad happened.  What disaster might have occurred?  Thank Him for those as well.  How many times were you thinking of going to XYZ when something changed your mind and you narrowly avoided a known disaster?  My husband once decided not to go to work one day because the only route there (70 miles one way) was covered in snow and notorious for closure.  Later we found that many of the people who traveled that road were stuck down the hill unable to get home for a day or two.  And what about all the other situations we have no idea we could have found ourselves in?

Praising God during a storm in your life, especially one that you’ve endured a long, long time, is not easy. It takes some work. It takes searching hard for any little shred of joy you can find and hang on to. But it’s worth the time and effort to build a habit because there will always come times in your life when things are even more difficult to handle than you ever thought they would be and that’s exactly the time you need to praise God in the storm!

I’ll be back next week with another installment…until then, I pray for your blessings in the whatever storm you find yourself.

 

Some more “joy” resources from the article vault

So ends the Paul vs Job series here on Life Beyond Surviving, but I didn’t want to let you go without giving you some more “joy” resources.  You see, I’ve been writing about this topic for quite some time. I started over on my JoJoisms blogsite.  I’ve been transferring my most popular articles over to this site, but I’ve written so much that it’s not easy.  It takes quite a bit of time so I’ve been doing them in bunches as these topics arise.

After this series, I thought about how a few of my other articles might be of some value to you.  That being said, here are two articles I’ve written, a bit of what they say with links to the full articles here on Life Beyond Surviving.

1) How to Praise God in the Storm:

There are many devotionals on thankfulness that talk about this so I’m not going to spend much time on it since you’ve probably read enough of them to quote them verbatim. I’ll just say that it’s important to continue to pray and read the scriptures even when we are at our wit’s end and even when we are no longer able to envision that God would help us because, the moment we no longer seek God, we begin to drift away from Him. “Trouble and anguish have taken hold on me: yet thy commandments are my delights.” -Psalm 119:143

So how do we begin to feel thankful? Well, last week I prepared our hearts a bit by sharing with you what we should remember about struggles. But that often isn’t enough to bring us through from frustration and despair. After many years upon this earth I have found some things that have helped me to become more thankful and bring me to the point where I can praise God during the storms of my life. By the way…I wrote this as much for me as I did for my readers.

1. Start small and build

Thank Him for whatever blessings you can think of, even…

Click the above link to read the rest of the article.

2) What to Remember About Struggles:

Sometimes things that friends and family communicate to us can make our struggles more difficult, but there are things we can communicate to ourselves that can help us during struggles.  Today I’d like us to consider some things that will help us remember that God is not out to get us when struggles come. God isn’t punishing us and that there is a reason and maybe even a blessing around the corner.

Here’s what we need to remember during hard times:

1. Even if we cannot feel Him, God is still with us

We can count on Him to help and support us through the difficult times.  Often we feel abandoned by God when tough times come.  It’s only  natural that we may not feel close to God when we are struggling, but if we can remind ourselves that God has not moved away from us, we might feel Him near.  It’s always harder to find something when we aren’t looking.

It’s almost like when you have a close relative who lives far away.  You can’t reach out and touch them or hug them, but you can still talk to them on the phone, but only if we dial the phone.

2. This struggle may prepare us for an incredible opportunity

We may need to learn something from this horrible experience…

Click the above link to read the rest of the article.

I pray the Paul vs Job series has blessed you and your family and that these additional resources give you more to help you begin to work toward having more joy in your life despite the trails.