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!
Last week, I talked abouthow much more difficult it is swimming upstream rather than just letting the Lord lead you. This week I’d like to give you some perspective in re-framing how you look at things.
Have you ever played that game where you look for red cars and you suddenly noticed red cars all over the place? Or have you ever bought a new car and then noticed them all over the road? God created us with certain filters so that our senses don’t get overwhelmed. We filter out so much that we never notice because, if we did notice everything around us, we’d never be able to concentrate on anything. That works FOR us in this case, but it does work AGAINST us in others.
If you are having a bad day, or a bad year, you are more apt to get negative and see a negative spin on everything–even when there isn’t one. I once posted an adorable picture of a puppy. Most people said how cute it was. One person said it was horrible of me to post it because her cousin, twice removed, was once bitten by a dog in Cleveland.
There’s always a tendency to be a Negative Nelly when we are struggling. It’s normal to do that for a short time. What’s not normal (or helpful) is to live in Negative Nellyland. If you see that you didn’t naturally leave Nellyland, here’s what you can do to guide yourself out. I know because I’ve been on this road myself.
It sounds too simple, but it actually works if you work at it. Look for the good and you’ll find more of it. It’s not hard, it just takes practice. Look for good in all bad experiences: what you can learn from it, how much God has helped you, how blessed you are… and you will find it more and more. Then watch our Lord work and see how much more joy you have!
I remember some stories from Sept 11th about how something went wrong and they couldn’t get to work that day…in the twin towers! Or they were late and missed being there when the plane hit. Some of those stories were frustrating until you saw the bigger picture. The one God sees.
Having a baby is one of the most painful things. Know how we get through it? We know we get our CHILD at the end. The pain is worth it. No pain is worth it if we don’t see the value either in it or that comes from it.
Look back to some of worst things that happened in your life. What can you honestly say you learned from that? What can you say you gained because of it? Just as I have gained my life due to my husband losing his job for racist reasons, you can probably find SOMEthing you gained from the difficulties you’ve had or are having. One of them is probably experience that can help someone else!
Check back next week for a little pep talk I’m sure you’ll benefit from!
I was thinking about perspective one day and I created this meme:
I noticed that if you look at the side of the mountain with your head tilted, it looks like just a moderate walk to the top. God often has us look at things differently and do things differently such that it doesn’t feel like an insurmountable task to climb what we thought was a huge mountain.
Sometimes it feels like we’re swimming upstream trying to get things done with a body that doesn’t want to cooperate. Then, suddenly, we hear clearly how the Lord wants us to do it and things seem like we’re just riding the current. So…
Are you swimming upstream or are you letting the Lord lead you? This is part one of a four part series on how we can choose to live our lives joyously in spite of chronic illness or any other difficulties. Life is difficult at best and a mess most of the time. But it’s a wonderful mess that we can stop trying to control and just trust our Lord to take us where He wants us to go.
If you’ve ever been in a river, you know that it’s so much harder to try to swim against the current than to allow it to take you away. Well, that place He’s taking us may not look good, but if we trust Him, it will be a wonderful experience. OR the road there, which at first seems treacherous, may actually be EASY if we stop fighting against it and allow God to guide us.
Example 1: My son. We were heartbroken when we lost several babies to miscarriage after my daughter was born. We went over NINE YEARS without hope because we thought God didn’t want us to have another child. We didn’t trust the Lord to handle the situation as much as we were disappointed that He didn’t give us another child. At first, we were devastated each time we found I wasn’t pregnant. All our energy was focused on that next child until one day we stopped trying and just allowed the Lord to do what He wanted.
Our miracle baby was born 9.5 years after my first. We had wanted two children, a boy and a girl who were about 2-3 years apart. That was our plan. BUT…If I had another child a few years after my daughter was born, I’d never have my incredible son and we would have been empty nesters a LONG time ago!
God knew what He was doing! He gave us what we needed when we needed it. Just as He always does!
Example 2: My cancer journey. I thought it was the most awful thing that could happen to us. My husband was fired with no way to prove it was racially motivated. No job, no income, no insurance. BUT God…
But God had a plan and because of that plan I’m still alive! My husband and I spent hours and hours worrying, planning and doing things that would allow us to make a living until he got another job. Now, the doing WAS needed, but the worrying was NOT! It took so much of my energy of which so little remained as Fibro had hold of it.
After a while the company insurance ran out. It wasn’t that great anyway, but now we had none. We found that the state offered it to those who were in this kind of situation. When the doctor wanted to send me to a specialist and then for testing for a fibroid tumor (which we both knew was almost certainly gone now that I was nearing menopause), I only agreed because she was insistent and it didn’t cost me anything out of pocket.
If my husband still had that job and insurance, I would never have agreed to pay for tests and specialists to find something that was most certainly gone by now. They never would have found a cyst on my ovary that required surgery and they NEVER would have found a rare and very aggressive cancer that almost always takes the woman’s life because it is found too late to cure! I would have been dead long before and you wouldn’t be reading this blog! So, what looked like a disaster to us turned out to save my life!
Since only God can see ahead, we have no idea what He has in store for us that might be better than what we could have even hoped for. We only see the edge of the waterfall. As we are going over Niagra Falls in that barrel, we can only see and feel fear…unless we trust God to take us through. On the other side, we can sometimes look back to see how far He was willing to go to save us or give us what He wanted.
Next week, I’ll be back with some more on how we can find the good in a bad situation.
I pray you’ve had some blessings from reading my summer tips for chronic illness series this month. I have one more to share with you and it’s just some ideas I put together for summer activities for those of us with chronic illness.
The fatigue and pain we have in common are what may keep us from doing things. However, while they may limit the things we choose to do, they don’t have to completely keep us in the house by ourselves (for most of us anyway).
Finding things that are more comfortable to do during the summer may include things that are indoors, require little to no walking, and little to no travel. Here are some ideas I had. I’d love for you to share yours!
One of the activities I discovered during the excruciatingly hot summers in ARIDzona were the summer movie programs most movie theaters hold each year. They show older movies, mostly for children that they rerun in summer months. While you may not want to attend all of the days, you can pick and choose. Many of these movies are kid-friendly but not necessarily cartoons. I’ve enjoyed seeing them again and some for the very first time!
I don’t know if the theaters are open near you, but you could watch a Netflix movie with family or neighbors or you could view it while on a zoom call or phone with someone. Here’s one that came from my son. He loves movies, but during Covid, we couldn’t go to a movie theater so he made a movie marathon at home for his birthday. Have popcorn or your favorite slushies and invite friends or family over.
If you have a pool or live in a community with a pool, especially if it’s an indoor pool, that’s a great idea provided you’re not out too long in the sun or heat. If there’s shade, that’s a great place to sit and watch the kiddies or grandkiddies play and be with loved ones. (Covid not withstanding, of course)
Another great idea for kids activities is in the backyard where you can supervise. They can be playing in the backyard with you in the shade. Childhood games you remember from your youth can be introduced or you can tell stories of your life and ask your kids or grandkids about their favorite things. I used to talk Gameboy with my son.
Board games are another great activity to do with children, but there are some great games now for adults that can be played with visiting family indoors to keep out of the sun.
You can make up your own games for small children. Give them a letter and have them go around the house and find things that begin with that letter. If you have more than one kid, give each one a different letter.
Zoom and other online companies offer free services where you can actually see a friend or family member as you talk to them. I’ve had a weekly Zoom call with my mom, sister, aunt , daughter, and niece. Sort of a girls day in. Whoever can make it each week. It’s been a lot of fun getting to see family I’ve not been able to because we live so far. We’re actually all in five different states. Seeing their faces is sooooo much more fun than just hearing their voice on the phone–especially if you can do it as a group!
I know many of us have a hard time maintaining the energy needed to do day to day things. It seems an insurmountable task at times to think about travel. However, if you can, it’s often a great idea for lifting spirits.
I actually found a great article on the topic and just thought I’d leave that here for you to peruse. It emphasizes talking to your doctor and planning! Planning is a HUGE part of chronic illness life, but just know that as they saying goes…the best laid plans of mice and folks with chronic illness… You may need to make changes as you go.
My only advice to you is to share how I felt when traveling by plane. Plane travel is very difficult with chronic illness. All that waiting in line while standing is very hard. Lugging around luggage is much easier if yours has wheels. Also bring snacks because the food at airports is expensive and you’ll need to wait in another long line to get it.
Long car rides can be difficult too as you’ll be sitting in a cramped environment for a long time and that can wreak havoc on your muscles. I’d suggest stopping often and stretching your legs every few hours if you can. Even an hour car ride for me is a bit hard at times so do what you feel you can.
I can’t really add much more to it other than to say that every individual with chronic illness will be different and may have different needs and limitations at different times.
What are your best travel tips?
Check back next week when I finish the series with summer activity ideas for those of us with chronic illness!