A Different Way to Look at Trials

Whether or not you have a chronic issue/illness, you will face trials in your life. It’s not a matter of if, but only when. And most of us face trials multiple times in our lives–some of us, more than one at a time.

It’s sometimes hard to find the joy inside things that feel like the end of your world as you know it, isn’t it? I’ve noticed that there are different ways in which we can see trials and, that one fact alone, can determine how we face them.

When we’re at the bottom of our trial mountain, it can be hard enough to see a way up let alone how we can get there. But if we look at that mountain in a different way, we can see that there is a way up. You see that mountain up there in the picture? One side of it looks straight up. It looks hard to climb. Hard to navigate. But look at the back of that mountain? There’s a slope. It’s a steep slope, but a slope is better than straight up any day of the week!

Sometimes that slope on the other side is NOT as easy to climb, but that only means we should look at it a bit cockeyed. See how tilting the picture of the mountain gives us a better view of the slope in that picture? It may be harder to climb than turning the picture will make it appear, but what I’m saying is that there is your best shot. By being able to see that other side of the mountain with a tilt and enlarging the terrain allows us to learn better how to navigate our way up and over.

God often allows obstacles in our way to strengthen us-to build us into the person who can fulfill our purpose. Sometimes the storm clears the way. Sometimes storms are there to prove to us that we have strength we didn’t think we possessed. And that strength always comes in handy, if not for our own needs, then for the needs of our friends and family.

When we go through trials, we often feel they are a big part of our identity or, worse yet, ALL that we are. We are so much more than just the struggles we go through. God often builds us through our struggles, but He wants them to create a stronger soul able to reach and inspire others because nobody escapes this world unscathed. EVERYONE will have trials and those trials are more easily lived if we have others to look to who go before us and pave the way.

We are so much more than our struggles. We are so much more than our pain. We are shaped by them, but we are not defined by them alone!

The road to success is often paved with rocky terrain, u-turns, detours, and mountains to climb. Look at almost any success story and you’ll notice that the success you see is only the snap shot from the top of the mountain. When you read the book or watch the movie of their life, you see the rocky road they had to take to get there. And isn’t that a more inspiring story anyway?

Isn’t it inspiring to know that you aren’t the only one who struggles? Isn’t it nice to know that you, too, can achieve? That your struggle is what MAKES your success and not the reason you CAN’T succeed?!

I created this meme a while back when I saw a topic on social media talking about race and how it identifies who they are. I disagree. It’s only part of who you are. Who you are is SO much more than that and it’s so much more than a condition or illness you have. You are so much more than the struggles you have. God made each of us an individual-uniquely designed for such a time as this. He wants us to use the gifts and skills He’s given us to help others. If you can’t help others directly, you can inspire them with who you are and how you handle the trials you face.

So many with chronic illness believe they have nothing to give, but that couldn’t be further from the truth! Inspiration is worth so much more often times than giving a million dollars to a charity. It’s worth so much more than physically being there to help someone up because you can lift them spiritually!

Remember, “If you give a man a fish, you feed him for a day. If you teach a man to fish, you feed him for a lifetime.” -Matthew 4:19. If you lift someone up off the floor, you help them get up once. If you lift them up spiritually, you may lift them up for a lifetime. That is what this blog is all about. That is what I strive to make my entire life about.

If I can inspire just one person, then my struggle has a higher purpose, doesn’t it? That higher purpose has another purpose because, in living my life to inspire others, it also inspires me to keep going! It gives me a purpose where I may have believed I had none.

Living with chronic issues or trials isn’t necessarily an end to your purpose here on planet Earth. It can be THE purpose you were put here by God to serve: an inspiration to others so they don’t give up on what God put THEM here to do!

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How Best to Support Someone with Chronic Illness

I’ve done a post about this before, but this one is a bit different. If you have chronic illness or know someone who does, this is a post that will help you communicate your love and support. You might also want to share this with those you love.

Not Supportive:
“You don’t look sick!” (He/She’s heard this a thousand times! What it says to them is “You don’t believe me.”)

“It could be worse!” (While this is true, it isn’t helpful. It’s like telling someone who just lost their child that it could be worse because they could have lost both of their children.)

“Must be nice not to have to go to work!” (Yes people have said this! It’s like telling someone who has the lost a leg, “It must be nice not having to walk and have others push you around all the time.”)

“It’s probably just stress!” (Stress isn’t diagnosed as Fibro of Chronic Fatigue. Saying it’s JUST stress minimizes what they feel and says they could feel better if only they’d do something different. Trust me. They have probably already tried.)

“Are you sure you just can’t __________?” or “Have you tried ______?” (They’re sure. Whatever it is you think they haven’t tried, they have!)

“Call me if you need anything.” (While this sounds helpful, people with chronic illness are usually too proud to ask for help or they don’t want to burden anyone. They won’t call.)

“Feel better soon!” or “Hope you feel better.” (The chronic part of chronic illness means they most likely won’t be feeling better. Saying you hope they feel better isn’t supportive because it implies that they should be thinking more positively about their chronic issue. While they may find something that helps down the line, it probably isn’t as easy as this statement sounds.)

“Just think positive!” or “Have you prayed about it?” or You’re always complaining!” (It’s not a matter of thinking positively and God sometimes doesn’t answer our prayer. Paul prayed for God to take away the “thorn” in his side and God told him that His grace was sufficient for him. Telling someone with chronic issues to pray or think positive is like telling them they are a bad person or a bad Christian because they weren’t healed yet. They may be healed by the Lord sometime in the future on this earth or they may need to wait until they are on the other side of Heaven.)

Supportive:
“I’m so sorry!” (Then let them share with you, cry with you, and be uplifted by your support. They don’t need you to try to fix them. They need a friend to support them. They’ve got doctors, other chronic illness friends/groups, and God for that!)

“What is it like?” or “How does it affect you?” (This tells them that you are interested in listening and allowing them to vent a bit. Venting isn’t the same as complaining. Venting to someone willing to understand is helpful. Once the person is allowed to share, they feel a bit better and can actually be at least to some degree more positive.)

“How’s your pain/fatigue level today?” (This tells them you get it. This tells them you care. This tells them they can open up to you without being judged. This is helpful.)

“Wow! That stinks!” (This says you get it and you aren’t trying to shove another “cure” on them. This may actually open up a discussion that may lead to something that helps them because they feel more comfortable with you.)

“How can I help?” (This tells them you really care and are willing to really be there for them.)

“I’m getting a coffee. What can I pick up for you while I’m there?” (This tells them you’re serious about the help you are offering. This way they don’t have to ask. You are offering.)

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Distraction Ideas

If you struggle with chronic illness/conditions, you know all too well how many times we need a distraction. From the pain. From the boredom. From the fatigue. Here is a list of ideas that may help. I’d love you to share your favorite method of distraction.

  1. HUMOR:
    The best way I’ve found to distract myself from the pain or fatigue of chronic illness is with humor. I watch funny reruns of tv shows, funny movies, funny memes on social media. All these get me to laugh, have fun, and help me to cope with the fatigue and pain of fibro and other issues I deal with.
  2. CONVERSATION:
    Another of my favorite ways to distract is to engage in phone calls with friends and relatives. Catch up, reminisce, and engage. You can have a great time with people even if you can’t get out and even if they are 3000 miles away!
  3. CREATE:
    I am a creative soul and I love to create new and unique things. I write JoJoisms, blog posts, and I’m working on some books I’d like to get traditionally published. If writing isn’t your thing, you can turn to art, crocheting, crafting, music, running a YouTube channel with your passion… The possibilities are endless!
  4. INSTRUCT:
    If you have a talent or skill, why not set up a blog or YouTube channel or other way to teach others how to master something new? You have no idea how much your knowledge of history or science or math or any art form might help others and give you an outlet and a reason to bounce (figuratively) out of bed each morning.
  5. CREATE A BUSINESS:
    Use any of your skills or talents to start a business! You’d be surprised how many YouTube sensations started off just sharing a passion. There might be things you can do that wouldn’t be too energy taxing that could bring you some income! You may not know until you try.
  6. PRAY:
    If you can’t think of anything that you could do that excites you, you might try praying. Pray for others. Start a prayer group, a support group, a texting ministry. Start a prayer ministry on Facebook where you pray for your Facebook friends and their families. Prayer is powerful and it can be a powerful way to both minister to others and fulfill a purpose here on earth as you struggle with chronic issues.

    Can you think of any others? How do you distract yourself?
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Three ways to beat feeling useless with chronic illness

So many times those of us with chronic illness feel useless because we don’t have the energy to do things with our kids, to help around the house, or to contribute to the family finances. We’re often too tired or in pain to do the things we think we should do. While we may not be able to do certain things, we can, indeed, contribute to others lives in so many other ways that we probably don’t think matters.

  1. Lower Your Standards for Usefulness
    The first thing I did that helped me to feel as if I had a purpose to my life may sound a little defeatist or wrong. I had to lower my standards of usefulness.

    My idea of living with a purpose and making a difference in the world was HUGE! When I was a kid, it was being a famous singer. As I got older it was being the BEST homeschooling mom and helping others to do big things for God. When I found I wasn’t able to get out of the house much (or off the couch often), that made me feel useless. The house wasn’t clean, the kids couldn’t run and play with me and I wasn’t changing anyone’s life.

    But when I began to see the little things that I COULD do, I realized that they made a difference in other people’s lives…and sometimes a BIG difference! Instead of hosting big events in person, I hosted an event online. (Before that was a real thing!) Instead of running with my kids, I concentrated on teaching and training them with knowledge and helping them discover who God intended them to be. Instead of writing a best seller, I wrote a little blog that helped others with chronic illness live with more joy.

    Those things turned out to be much more rewarding!
  2. Be Virtually Useful
    Just because we can’t reach out in person, doesn’t mean we can’t help especially in the Information Age! As I mentioned before, I ran an online convention for a few years before online events were even popular. I also took to social media to help others deal with every day issues. I had a texting ministry where I’d text a few people daily to uplift them during a difficult time. I also found ways to earn money online via websites and various original products/services.

    So, I was contributing to my household’s finances even though I wasn’t able to hold a job!
  3. Take Up a New Hobby or Purpose
    Sometimes God will allow you to do the same things you’d like to do in a different way (virtually). Sometimes God gives you a whole new purpose! I have a degree in Speech Communication so when I wasn’t able to do in person speaking engagements, I did them virtually. Later on other things became more important to me.

    One of my passions is purple. I’ve always loved the color. About 11 years ago, I started a fan page on Facebook for purple lovers. That page grew to over 10K fans. The page was just for fun. It doesn’t sell anything and I just share and create and post pretty purple things. That’s all. But I can’t tell you how many times I’ve received a comment or message about how important those pretty purple things uplifted someone during a trial in their lives!

    Sometimes you have no idea the importance of something you do for someone else!
  4. See How God Can Use You
    My advice for you if you are struggling to find a purpose because of chronic illness or a chronic condition is to pray to have God reveal to you how He can use you where you are right now. It doesn’t matter what you can’t do. It only matters what you CAN do! So…

    What can YOU do…right now?!
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Don’t they know…

I just had to share this because it’s just too funny. Last week I shared about how my daughter and son in law got me a set of weighted silverware to keep my food in my mouth and not on the floor. Well, I just had to share how it came because I don’t think they quite understand their target market:

If your fingers shake enough that you need a set of weighted stainless steel utensils, you might want to get your husband to help you get them out of the box for you.

Yes. They come with each utensil hard wired in! Each of the two forks and spoons and the one knife comes with TWO twistie ties double twisted (yes in BOTH directions)!

If we didn’t laugh…

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Essential Tremor Tips

If you have Essential Tremors, you probably have a few tips and tricks up your shaky sleeve, but I thought I’d share some of mine.

So, I’ve been posting about my health journey to inspire others to begin their own and I’d love to help you reach your health goals if you’d like someone (a coach) in your corner who’s been there.

Part of doing that means taking some selfies to post and show how my life has changed (and it has SOOOOO MUCH). Selfies are kind of hard when your hands shake but I have found a work around.

My first tip is to hold the thing requiring the most dexterity in your hand that is affected the least. For me, that’s my right hand and happily, I’m right handed. 😀

However, if I needed to do something with my right hand, I had a terrible time trying to hold the camera still and press the button so I enlisted the help of the 10 second delay. After setting the delay, you click the button to take the picture and wait the designated ten seconds. Just make sure you’re not shaking or it might turn out like this:

One way I was able to get a good picture with my left hand was to hold my arm as close to my body as possible, thereby giving it something to rest on. Since Essential Tremor is an action tremor and not a resting tremor, this works pretty well.

Ok. On to other tips I’ve found useful.

I’ve noticed that typing on a normal sized keyboard like on my laptop is a bit tricky, but not quite as difficult as typing on my iPhone or my iPad’s screen. However, if you get yourself a purple stylus, you increase your dexterity quite a lot. I guess it kind of fools your brain into thinking your finger is further away from its target thereby not increasing the rate of tremor.

The last tip I have is to use weighted utensils. I’ve been known to toss a salad on the floor and all over the counter so my daughter and son in law bought me a set of weighted utensils. Having the weight is a bit difficult to get used to at first, but it does weigh down your hand so it shakes less and keeps the olive on the spoon or fork from rolling off into your lap. Ask me how I know.

Got any Essential Tremor tips? Share.

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Does your wedding dress still fit?

Mine does!

So our 34th wedding anniversary was on January 24th. After losing 36 lbs last year, I decided to take the dress out of the box to see if it still fit! I was about 103 when I first wore this dress and I’m about 111 now. I wasn’t entirely sure this was going to work, but after 34 years, I thought I’d give it a whirl!

To my utter amazement, I could get into it though I do fill it out just a tad differently than I first did. However, it’s not entirely a bad thing. 😀

Please excuse all the wrinkles (in the dress that is!), it has been through 34 years, survived eleven moves, and three states! And so have I!! ;D

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My Silly Selfie Situation

Life Beyond Surviving was created to help those dealing with chronic illness or other chronic issues to deal with trials more productively by pointing them back to the joy that is often hidden inside the struggles. Part of seeing the light INside your tunnel is being able to see your difficulties as funny. Case in point:

This started off serious and quickly deteriorated into a giggle fit! So, I’ve had this outfit hanging up on the back of my closet to fit back into when I reached my goal weight. I’ve lost 36 lbs and found I could finally fit back into my jeans and size small purple flannel shirt.

I was trying to take a selfie—but things didn’t go according to plan. I have no real experience taking selfies so I stuck my iphone in my left hand so I could gesture with my right. I’m right handed and my left hand is afflicted with more of the Essential Tremors than my right. Gesturing with my left hand might have yielded some awkward results.

The following is what happened in chronological order.

By the end of this little activity, I was laughing so hard I was almost on the floor. I decided to post them as is and everyone on Facebook found it hilarious.

Clearly JoJo needs some selfie tips! Got any to share?

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When Even Your iPhone Gets Frustrated with Your Essential Tremors!

Anyone need a giggle break in the midst of 2020? I’ve got you covered! I call this installment of Weird Stuff Happens to Me: When Even Your iPhone Gets Frustrated with Your Essential Tremors!

Yesterday’s cooking event was not without incident. Famous last words: “I don’t need my ‘Kevlar gloves’ to make zoodles!

So, I proceeded to prove myself wrong by cutting into my nail. This morning while attempting to fill my water bottle, it overflowed onto the counter and the floor. While trying to clean it up, I had an unusual time trying to get the paper towel in my hand and it wound up flying through the air like some Bugs Bunny cartoon.

I decided to write a post about my exciting life with tremors, but while trying to take a picture of my right hand, Siri had a message for me! It’s on the top of the last picture. It says “Hold Still.” 😅😂🤣

I couldn’t make this stuff up if I tried! ROFL

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Some encouragement from the Bible

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 pray this has inspired and strengthened you…

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