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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2021 Update on my weight loss/chronic illness journey

When I started my weight loss process, I was 152 lbs. For my 5′ nuthin’ frame and child sized appendages, that’s a LOT! I tried every diet known to mankind with zero results and I couldn’t do too much exercise being so tired I had to rest after taking a shower!

My mom said she plateaued before she was able to lose all her menopause weight and I found I had plateaued at 148 or so. That’s where I was for some time when (as you may remember) I had asked my doctor, who is trained in nutrition, what I should do. She suggested I limit myself to 1200 calories/day and was already at 900-1000 just eating what I usually ate. So, THAT didn’t help.

That’s when I got a health coach. She helped me tweak my eating and taught me how and what to eat for optimal weight loss (tailored to my own weird body along the way) and I was finally able to lose the weight.

My original goal was to reach my pre menopause weight of 115, but when I got there, I decided to see if I could try to get down a bit more. I’m currently maintaining a weight of about 112! I literally NEVER thought I’d see that number again on a scale I was standing on! But here I am!

I went from a size 8 to a size 2! My blood pressure went back down to my normal reading of just a tiny bit below the normal reading from being almost too high for my doctor’s comfort!

I went from taking three naps a day to NONE! And from having to rest after taking a shower and having to sit on a chair to blow dry my hair to not have a problem at all with this kind of task!

Turns out that not carrying around an extra 34 lbs makes a HUGE difference in my energy level! I had NO IDEA it would make that much of a difference. NONE! But it did!

Some other little odd victories:
1. I fit back into my daughter’s size 10/12 children’s t-shirt!

2. My engagement ring on my right ring finger spins around and the diamond is pointing to my palm most of the time. Something I had forgotten happened all the time in the winter. It’s sized correctly. It’s just that my knuckles are much thicker than the space under it for the ring. So it swings.

3. My wedding ring, which was always just a tad too big in the winter, again flies off at times.

One of the most difficult things about being this thin again is that it’s almost impossible to find size two pants in extra short! But what a lovely problem to have!

Overall, I’d have to say that I’m so excited to enter 2021 with less of me than I entered 2020 with! It not only makes me feel good to see myself in the mirror, but it makes me feel GOOD because I’m so much less fatigued!

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A Pandemic Weight Loss Story

As is fitting for the end of 2020, I’m going out of this crazy year in true Life Beyond Surviving/JoJoisms style. So, here’s a funny story to help you ring in the new year:

Covid19 has added several terms we’d probably prefer never to hear again. However, as I read through some posts the other day, I realized that several of them could be related to weight loss and it would make for a funny story. 😂

Since I lost 33 lbs during this pandemic, I thought I’d found a creative way to tell my story, but Facebook only showed it to like 12 people. So, I’m sharing it elsewhere including here on my blog. Have a giggle on me!

A Pandemic Weight Loss Story

It was March of 2020. I’d been sheltering in place for several years at that point due to an outbreak of chronic illness. I had experienced an epidemic of weight gain since the underlying condition of menopause and it had spread to just about every part of me. The transmission rate was alarming and I was very antibody!

I remember sheltering in place during the incubation period when I happened to look in the mirror and just about needed a ventilator! It was then that I made a decision that it was essential, even while safe at home, to flatten the curve!

“We’re all in this together!” I declared to my community spread! For several months, I was in close contact with my health coach as I quarantined my unhealthy weight until my thighs began social distancing.

My symptoms have steadily decreased, my energy has improved and I’ve lived happily thin ever after!

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When the Lord reminds you of what He’s done for you!


Do you see that brown spot on my cheek? That’s what my OBGYN called a birthmark. No, I wasn’t born with it. My children were. 😉


When I was pregnant with my first (my dd), I developed this mark. It was on my right cheek. The doctor said it would go away after I gave birth. It didn’t.


When I was pregnant again, I developed a similar mark on my left cheek. It didn’t get as big because I wasn’t pregnant very long. I miscarried.


When I was pregnant with my son, the mark on my right side began getting bigger. Unfortunately, I had similar problems with this pregnancy and was put on bed rest.


One day when I was washing my face, I looked in the mirror and I felt as if God was speaking to me. He said, this child would be ok. The mark was on the right side. It wasn’t on the right side (meaning not left). It was on the RIGHT side (meaning not wrong!)


I felt a peace and my son was born perfectly healthy though his birth story is chock full of God’s miracles! That is a whole other story I’ll share another time.


Yesterday, I was looking at myself in the mirror (something I don’t mind doing now that I’ve lost 33 lbs!) and I noticed that the mark on my right cheek is almost gone. After 30 years, you almost can’t see it anymore.
However, that birth mark on my left side is still prominent. As I wondered why God would allow the mark on my right side (reminding me of my two beautiful children) to fade while leaving the left visible, it hit me!


The Lord wants to remind me of what He did for me and for my children. There’s a child I’ll see one day in heaven even though I wasn’t able to here on earth.

Through adversity, God gives us gentle reminders of His love. We can find joy in that at some point – even if not at that moment.


If you’re struggling, remember that God wants to comfort you. You’ll find peace if you look to Him.

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When Things Happen While You’re Not Looking

When we’re going through something difficult, we often don’t see much progress. We don’t feel God near us or we don’t see an answer to prayer. Most of you, like me, have lived with chronic issues for a lifetime. My fatigue started when I was a child. I could never understand how other teens and pre teens had the energy to run around and even do chores.

As we go through difficulty, we get used to dealing with it as best we can. That’s good, but it’s just as often, bad. What I mean is, we get so used to being fatigued, to not being able to take a shower without having to rest, that we don’t even consider that anything could change and we may not even notice when it does!

Case in point, my weight loss journey. For those who are just joining me, here’s the background to get you up to speed:

I’ve been packing on the pounds for over twenty years. After delivering my son at the ripe old mom age of 37, I was thrust into peri menopause. It was both frustrating and frustrating.

What I mean is, it was frustrating because I was slowly adding poundage. I was a different kind of frustrated because that’s when the Hellish Hot Flashes started. I was all kinds of frustrated that my doctors (plural) would NOT believe I was actually IN peri menopause! And I was frustrated because no matter what I did, what I didn’t eat, how hard I tried to exercise, and how hard I tried, I just kept gaining!

After the hysterectomy four years ago, my weight gain took on Olympic proportions! I was now a whopping 152 pounds! That might not sound like a lot to YOU, but if you consider my stature or lack there of, is only 5′ nuthin’, it was quite astounding.

It took me 21 years to add the weight and I really had no idea how bad I looked til one day I got a glimpse of myself in the mirror. How could I be gaining all those years so much weight and having it make THAT much of a difference…and I not NOTICE??? It happened while I wasn’t really looking. A little at a time. Then, one day, I saw it and BAM!

So, I found my health coach and Mary and I got to work. I began losing weight but just a wee bit at a time so…I didn’t notice. My husband kept telling me that I was looking great, but when I looked in the mirror I still saw a fat me. Until…one day…

It was interesting to me how it went both ways, but that’s not the end of the story. While I was trying to lose the last five pounds of my menopause weight, I was pretty frustrated that my thighs and upper arms still had wagging rights.

However, as I was contemplating the pain level of squats and modified pushups, something amazing happened! My thighs were discovered social distancing! Yes! While I wasn’t looking, my thighs actually responded to…

EXERCISE!

I’ve been exercise intolerant for about 58 years, the sum total of my life here on Earth ever since the space stork dropped me off here. How could it be that I was FINALLY able to do some that actually worked? Answer? I dunno. I think it was just the combination of the incredible job Mary did with my weight loss that allowed me to have enough energy to actually DO any exercise and my husband’s suggestion that I try squats and modified pushups.

I’m both proud and ecstatic to announce that my thighs (and even my calves) are thinner than they have been since I can remember! I’m still experiencing more energy and fewer/less severe flares since my 31 pound weight loss. Meanwhile, I’m working on my upper arms and turkey waggle neck. Film at 11!

What I’d like you to take away is how many times we are actually MAKING progress, but not actually SEEING it. God works that way sometimes. Sometimes we are working hard at what we feel God has asked us to do, but we are not seeing the fruits of our labor. Sometimes we are doing something that WILL have a positive effect on our health, but we don’t see any progress.

Sometimes, we just have to keep looking before we can see it.

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Changes

So, I had a bit of a reorganization of my ENTIRE life this past month or so! It’s in almost every area of my life so I thought I’d share a bit of that with you and tell you what that means for my Life Beyond Surviving blog moving forward.

Health:

For the last seven months, I’ve been on a health journey that has been truly transformational. I’ve lost 30 pounds and countless inches due to my health coach, Mary. Because of that, I’ve lowered my blood pressure and increased my sleeping, and my energy. It has decreased the number of Fibro flares I’ve had and also the duration of those flares. I still have a minimal amount of energy but I’m no longer taking naps in the afternoons or getting fatigued after a shower. At least once a week, I posses the energy to blow try my hair…all of it. LOL

Unfortunately, my Essential Tremors have ramped up quite a bit. Using utensils has been especially difficult, but my daughter and son in law bought me some weighted utensils that help quite a bit. I’ve had to add a special gloves to help me in the kitchen as well. These handy little purple wonders help me avoid burning and cutting (or in this case shredding) my fingers.

During this last month or two, I’ve felt more and more that I am lead to pick up my Art of Eloquence role and move it forward. As I was noticing that the rhetoric on social media has become so angry, I began to feel called back to my communication roots. I founded a new Facebook group where I have begun hosting live workshops that speak to those who have a mission, ministry, or business but struggle with shyness or social anxiety that doesn’t allow them to move forward as they feel called.

Lastly, it has become more and more difficult to type so, I have decided that I need to take a step back from this blog for now. I will continue to update it about once a month, but I will be putting more of my time and typing energy into my business and to what I feel called to do to help God’s children find their voice.

I pray that God continue to use me and I pray you find your purpose despite the difficulties that chronic illness brings.

God bless…

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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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