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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What I learned about chronic illness in 2020

  • My Fatigue Got Better with More Protein
    Early last year, I figured out that the amount of daily recommended protein may be a little low for those who have fatigue…at least it was for me and some others I asked. I’m not sure if it’s the fatigue that responded to the additional protein was from Fibro or the fatigue I experience as a result of shaking involuntarily from Essential Tremors all day. Either way, I felt noticeably better having more protein in my diet and so did some others I discussed it with who also have chronic illness.
  • Excess Weight has a Great Deal of Affect on Fatigue
    As I started to lose my menopause weight last year, I found that I had more energy. It started when I realized that I hadn’t needed a nap in a while. Then, I graduated to running up the stairs without realizing I was even doing it. Later on, I found that not only didn’t I need a chair in the bathroom or to rest my elbows on the bathroom counter to blow dry my hair, but I didn’t need to rest after taking a shower. By the time I had lost 39lbs, I found that I was doing housework and cooking without much of a problem and that I could spend the weekend running up and down the basement stairs and the third level of our house all weekend without needing a week or two to recuperate.
  • I thought I Knew What Good Nutrition was, but I was Wrong
    I didn’t have issues with stress eating or portion control and I didn’t really eat junk food or with binge eating carbs. I was eating what I thought was a healthy menu, but not losing even one ounce. What I found out is that there is more to healthy eating than just not eating junk food and picking healthier food choices…a LOT more!
  • Some Symptoms of Chronic Illness Actually Improve with Better Nutrition and Weight Loss
    My fatigue wasn’t the only thing that improved with better nutrition and weight loss! I’ve been an insomniac for decades. It started off with me getting about 2hrs of sleep a night and with pharmaceutical help, I was able to get about 5 hours of broken sleep getting up a few times a night and staying up sometimes for 3 or 4 hours before I could get back to sleep for anywhere from a few minutes to a couple hours. After losing 39 pounds, I am now sleeping about 6-7hrs a night. I get up once or twice, but usually get right back to sleep! BIG WIN!
  • Some Symptoms of Chronic Illness Do Not Improve with Better Nutrition or Weight Loss
    While some things do indeed get better with good nutrition and weight loss, some things do not. (Contrary to what others have told us about just needing to think positively or pray more.) Sleep and energy can and do get better with better nutrition and without carrying around extra weight, but they may not totally be resolved. Also pain is much better with less weight on your joints and such, but Fibro isn’t completely resolved through these things. I still have times I get tired or have pain and I still get up a few times a night, BUT they are all much better than they used to be so it’s a win. Just not a complete fix.
  • Everyone can feel at least somewhat better without excess weight
    I was skeptical at first about how much energy I’d get back if any. After a year on my weight loss journey, I can tell you that it has been a HUGE win for me. What I learned is that it’s a big win for MANY fibro sufferers and for others with chronic illness as well. I think everyone can benefit from being at a healthy weight and I’d love to show you how you can join me in feeling better!
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…And I’m Still Writing!

Have you ever heard of people who were, say, an artist who lost her sight? Or a singer who lost his voice? Or an athlete who lost the use of his legs?

Sometimes, that talent or skill God gave you is tested or challenged by the difficulties here on earth. Sometimes that test isn’t something that can be overcome as much as changed in form.

That football player can find purpose in coaching young kids who don’t have a father figure in their home. That singer can find her music in a piano. That artist can find expression in the artistry that is dance. And sometimes that disability can be overcome to allow the artist to continue. That is what God has allowed me to do with my writing.

When I was a child, I loved writing. I wrote all the time, but I never let anyone read what I wrote for fear it wasn’t good enough. Truth be told, it wasn’t but I was only about nine when I started. With more encouragement, I might have begun to share my writing to reach more people much earlier in life. But, I did keep writing and I got better and more public with it each year.

I have often had to prolong my writing due to fatigue from various chronic illnesses, but it didn’t stop me from writing. It only delayed the finished products a bit, but I kept writing.

Later on when brain fog from insomnia made it hard to put two sentences together, I began writing one liners I call JoJoisms. One of my Facebook memories reminded me that:

JoJoism #493 “Being a writer with brain fog is easier when you write one liners. You only need to focus for a sentence or two!” JoJoisms: Revealing Life’s Truths…as I think of ‘em!

When I started writing my communication materials for Art of Eloquence, I had no idea how to get my books traditionally published so I decided to publish them on my own website! And then when I wasn’t able to print them myself, I found a local printer who only worked with large companies and talked them into taking me on at their same rates even though I was not printing nearly the amount they were used to dealing with. And I was still writing!

Self publishing meant I had to create my own website even though I was the quintessential NON Techie! It took me a while and many, MANY hours of a frustrating learning curve, but I taught myself how to create websites and update them as I needed. And I was still writing!

In my writing for Art of Eloquence, I was asked to speak at several online and offline events. I’ve been shouted down for my beliefs and what I write. I was even told by a public school administrator that she would buy my materials for the entire school district if I’d only, “take the God parts out.” I refused and was forced to work harder and longer to sell my materials mostly to Christian homeschoolers, but I was still writing!

After I broke my hand in a car accident, I had to retrain myself to type because my middle finger now crosses over my ring finger as I make a fist. Unfortunately, writing requires muscle memory and I had to retrain myself to put my middle finger a bit further right when I type. It took me about a year, but I’m still writing!

As I got older my fingers began aching as I typed. I learned I had arthritis and neuropathy compounded by fibro, but I powered through and took breaks when I needed to. And I was still writing!

The last several years has seen an increase in censorship of Christian conservatives as social media began shutting us down. I had a whole year when my Facebook fan pages were all effectively shut down, but I kept on writing on my personal wall and on my blogs. After I regained control of my pages, I am now sharing those posts on my respective fan pages again anyway!

Four years ago, I was granted a miracle in that I was a cancer survivor before even my surgeons knew I could have cancer. It was a rare and aggressive kind, but God allowed me to survive and I’m still writing!

A couple years ago, my hands began shaking more than just when I was hungry. I was diagnosed with Essential Tremors which makes typing, writing, and reading what I typed or wrote even harder. And I’m still writing!

When God gives you a passion for something, a talent for something, and then life throws you a curve ball, sometimes you pivot and find another way to satisfy your desire for that type of expression. And sometimes He gives you the perseverance and determination to find new ways to keep going.

That’s what the Lord did for me…And I’m still writing!

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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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The Blessings of Pain- Revisited

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,…

To read the rest of the article, click here!

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The Comfort Zoneless Advantage

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!

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Summer Activity Ideas for Chronic Illness

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!

What are your favorite summertime activities?

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Summer travel tips for chronic illness

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!

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Tips for beating the Heat: Summer with Chronic illness

People with chronic illness, particularly fibro are often sensitive to temperature and temperature changes. Heat can aggravate pain and fatigue and cause other heat-related illnesses like heat stroke and heat exhaustion as we talked about last week. This week, I’d like to share some tips for beating the heat of the summer for chronic illness. Here’s mine. Feel free to comment and share yours!

1.Stay hydrated and avoid alcohol and caffeine
Caffeine and alcohol can get you dehydrated more quickly which is a bigger problem when you add heat to the mix. Stay hydrated by carrying a water bottle or thermos with you in the car and even from room to room in your home. The AC can cool things off but it is also drying the air so hydration is key.

2. Avoid direct sunlight for too long
As I pointed out last week, heat issues kind of sneak up on you. Make sure to limit your time in direct sun or heat to avoid the heat illnesses or fatigue creeping up on you.

3. Eat smaller meals
Eating smaller meals allows you to avoid getting hungry which can contribute to fatigue. It also allows you to eat more frequently. This keeps you from eating too much at one time which can bring on a food coma. 😀

4. Luke warm showers instead of hot showers
Taking luke warm showers instead of using hot water helps keep you from those huge temperature swings. I’ve had to adjust to those. I love taking HOT showers. The kind that my husband says burns his skin! ROFL The heat can help my muscles but it also contributes to my fatigue after a shower.

5. Wear layers especially when going in and out of ac, lightweight light-colored clothing
If you’re like me, you can go from freezing to burning up in two seconds flat. I always wear layers to help keep myself regulated. Sometimes I even get both at the same time. I call that FROT. Freezing Hot!

6. Keep medication cool.
Some meds are sensitive to the heat and some make you sensitive to heat.
(Lupus) It’s best to keep meds out of direct sunlight and away from humidity. Many people keep them in their bathrooms, but that room can get quite muggy from showers. I keep mine in the pantry in the kitchen.

7. Know your limits don’t do too much
I’ve said this many times. I have no idea what my limits are and they change from day to day and week to week. But this is something many doctors and articles tell you so I’m including it here. Do the best you can with it. I’ve almost given up trying to figure my body out in this area. LOL

8. Know the signs of dehydration:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Dry skin (you no longer sweat)
  • Decreased urine volume or abnormally dark urine
  • Unexplained tiredness
  • Irritability
  • Rapid breathing
  • Dizziness

Come on back next week when I’ll be talking about summer travel tips for chronic illness folks!

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Summer health risks for chronic illness

Summer can be a difficult time for those with chronic illnesses. I found an article that shares some Summer Health Risks for Chronic Illness. Some of the things they talk about that will be aggravated by the heat of the summer are migraines, MS, autoimmune conditions, Rosacea, and respiratory illness.

When I was a teen in high school, I used to grab a piece of floor in my bedroom that got the afternoon sun and took an hour nap after walking home from school. I felt better afterward which may have been from the vitamin D in the sunlight. However, too much sun exposure or too much heat can have a negative affect on your fatigue.

Those of us with Fibro or other chronic issues that cause fatigue often don’t realize how much we may be affected by the heat/sun during the summer. I lived in Phoenix for five and a half years so I know first hand how the sun and extreme heat can cause my fatigue to worsen. I had no idea why few ever attended outdoor activities for their kids in Phoenix until I was sitting outside the soccer field (no real shade) and felt a wave of heat stroke come over me. I had heat stroke or heat exhaustion a few times each of the first three summers I was there in ARIDzona!

However, even those in states where it doesn’t get to 120 degrees probably need to be careful of the heat during the summer months. Both heat and humidity can take its toll on those of us with already decreased energy levels.

I can tell you that the affects of heat can sneak up on you. Heat stroke and heat exhaustion came over me suddenly–not slowly. I never knew it was an issue until it suddenly kicked into high gear. So my cautionary tale is one of precaution. Make sure you limit your time in the sun, heat, and humidity.

I’ll be back next week with some ideas on how to do just that.

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