I’ve been sharing some key ways of finding the good in the bad things we go through down here on planet earth. We do that by understanding that we couldn’t climb high and gain success if the mountain was as smoothe as glass. We do that by understanding that the more amazing the success, the more difficult the journey. And we do that by understanding that we are sometimes tested not to show our weakness, but to discover or even grow our strengths!
I don’t know about you, but the difficulties I’ve been through have given me the strength I needed to deal with what was coming down the road a bit. God prepares us. Body builders have to strengthen their muscles in order to life heavier weights. Gymnasts need to strengthen their bodies in order to do all the amazing tricks.
Just as athletes must strengthen their bodies, we must strengthen our minds and our resolve in order to do the work the Lord has for us. Just to face the growing difficulties of life on a fallen world, we need to strengthen our character, our resolve, and our mindsets.
Strength is something often admired, but most people have no idea what it took to get there. Building strength in an area often takes difficulties endured that often look like trials and hardships. But they yield some amazing fruit!!
So, last month I started by sharing how just by understanding that we couldn’t get to the successes or see the incredible view of the top of our mountain if we didn’t have rough terrain to climb. If the surface was as smooth as glass, we wouldn’t have anything to hang on to in order to get to the top. Knowing there is a purpose to difficult times like our experience in helping others, allows us to see the joy in a difficult time.
The second way we can find the joy inside the bad times is to know that very often our hardest times produce the most amazing fruit. The most important or amazing successes often take the most effort and sacrifice. It’s just how life is.
How much time would you devote to a book or movie about a three minute climb to the top of a small hill? How impressed would you be with the business owner who spent a few weekends a year to create another mediocre product that doesn’t work much better than all the others available on the market?
We may not always agree with the owners of large corporations with respect to their politics, but we do admire a good rags to riches story of how they sacrificed for their vision. We love seeing the grit it took to get to the Olympics. We love the Rocky movies that shared how, against all odds, Rocky Balboa overcame and went on to win in the next movie. We love the story about how Sylvester Stallone took that move idea all over to many in the film industry who said no and how he went on to make a bunch of Rocky movies in spite of all those nos!
The effort you are putting into your dreams or goals or health or life is admired by others who are inspired by your example. Don’t give up the hard path so easily. It’s often the hardest climbs that lift the most people up!
I’ve often been asked how I am able to find a way to focus on the joy in my life amidst the trials of life. I thought I’d take some time to share some of the more simple ways I’ve managed this. I’m not saying it’s easy. Just that it’s simple.
Since it’s often the case that those going through life’s difficulties have very little time, I thought I’d share just one per month for the next few months. Also, this gives you time to make it a habit you fit into your life among the other “stuff” you’re going through.
I recently saw a quote by Wintley Phipps that I think illustrates the most important concept of finding joy in the trials. Wintley said, “Son, if the mountain were smooth, you couldn’t climb it.” If you think about life that way, it almost makes you wish for the mountains in your life. We wouldn’t be able to rise above the muck and mire of the every day to do the extraordinary things that inspire and motivate others if we didn’t have our mountains to climb.
We wouldn’t be able to see the majestic view at the top of the mountains of life if we weren’t able to climb the rocky terrain to get up to the top. And lets face it, if you’re thinking we could always take a short cut and fly over the tops of the mountains and catch a glimpse of the view, you’re not taking into account the experience you give up by not climbing it for yourself.
What I’ve learned by climbing to the top of my mountains has helped my readers and friends and family get through their own difficulties. Not every difficulty is alike, but knowing a friend was able to get through the death of her son or an abusive relationship or an illness, helps me face what life throws at me…even if it isn’t exactly the same kind of issue.
Let’s face it, life is difficult down here on earth. We will graduate to a perfect life in heaven, but for now, aren’t we better off knowing our brothers and sisters have paved the way dealing with trials such that we can learn from their experience? Here’s another word of wisdom that sums up why:
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!
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.)
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.
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.
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!
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!
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.
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.
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?
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.
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!
BeVirtually 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!
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!
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…
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 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.
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.
Ok let’s see how you do this…oops…I wasn’t ready.
Whooops! What button was that?
Ok this is the one…or not. LOL
Is it on?
OK That’s the one! ROFL
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?