Weird (Miracle) Cancer Story

When you have chronic illness, it’s easy to feel alone in the world because you tend to be more isolated than most people. I hope that this blog series has helped you to see yourself as a unique child of God with your own unique story.

Now that you know how truly weird I am, I have one last little bombshell to drop on you. It’s actually a miracle or series of miracles, but if you think about it miracles tend to be WEIRD, don’t they?

I didn’t even have cancer like a normal person…and I’m very grateful to God that I didn’t!

I Was a Cancer Survivor Before We Knew I Might Have Cancer:
Most people either feel sick or feel a lump and go to the doctor after which they are referred to an Oncologist who does some tests and probably performs surgery. Most or at least many, have to go through chemo and/or radiation.

Not me! Cuz I’m weird! I was a cancer survivor before even my doctors suspected I could have cancer! My diagnosis came as a result of several miracles. My doctor decided to go looking for a fibroid tumor that she knew probably wasn’t there and found a cyst on my ovary instead. During the surgery, the surgeon called an audible and decided to remove my entire fallopian tube on a whim. She said later that she just felt like she should do it because, “cancer likes to hide.”

Here’s the link to My Miracle Story with all of the odd details of how I survived a rare and aggressive cancer that, most often, takes the life of the woman.

I hope and pray that by now you’ve been able to see your weirdness less as something that isolates you and more as something that makes you, you…makes you unique. Don’t forget that miracles do happen and they are usually pretty weird! Wouldn’t you agree?

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2020 Back to Basics – Plan

All this month I’ve been getting back to basics so we can accept our chronic illness limitations, but grow through them and begin to have more joy in our lives again. I talked about the stages of grief and finding a new path that God would have for us. This week, I want to share how exactly we do that.

But those who wait on 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.” – Isaiah 40:31

They say that “if you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” It’s never been truer than for those of us with chronic illness. It’s hard enough to plan our day with fatigue and pain. It takes a bit more to plan your life, but it is necessary.

If it’s not on my To Do List, it don’t get to done! I find it so much easier to get things done, work my plan, do what I feel God is leading me to do if it’s on a list that I can check off when I’m done.

Once you know what you’re to do in each area of your life, you can begin to make those things happen by asking yourself questions. Do you need to change doctors to get better health this year? What steps can you begin to take to earn extra income? If it’s a new job, what steps can you take to get where you need to go? What things can you do to have better communication with your spouse?

Make a commitment to keep working your plan. Write it down where you can see it, look at it each day, work toward it each day. Having a goal and actually taking steps to move forward is what I found brought my joy back. It’s not always easy. In fact, it’s hardly ever easy. But it is worth it because it’s what God has for me and gives me purpose.

But those who wait on 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.” – Isaiah 40:31

What is it for you? How can you take steps toward your purpose and joy?

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2020 Back to Basics – Live & grow

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.” – 2 Corinthians 5:17

We’re getting back to basics this month. That old saying, “There’s light at the end of the tunnel,” never sat well with me. I’ve shared this before, but if our tunnel is chronic, it usually doesn’t end this side of heaven. That means we have to find the light inside our tunnel and last week we began that process by talking about the five stages of grief as it applies to those of us with chronic illness.

The five stages of grief may seem insurmountable at the time, but I’ve found that what comes next is the hardest part because once you get to acceptance, then what? What’s next? Next, you have to learn to live with it and grow through it.

This can seem impossible because you have your ideas of what life should have looked like, should have been, work you should be doing except for limitations imposed by your chronic issues. But how you allow God to mold you and change you into the life He has established for you will make all the difference.

Instead of looking at your past hopes and dreams and continuing to grieve for what will never be, I’ve found that it is far more positive and uplifting to allow God to guide me to the work he has for me in my present state. God always knew how my life would turn out. It wasn’t a surprise to Him, just to me. I figured, God created me and He has a plan for my life, so if He knew this, He must have work for me that I cannot see at this time.

The first step is to ask God for guidance and pray to hear His direction. I had been writing since I was nine years old. I had dreams of becoming a songwriter. Well, actually at that age, I had dreams of becoming a famous singer. As I grew up, my life changed and so my dreams changed. For me, they changed from writing songs to writing speech communication books to writing about chronic illness. The writing remained the same, but what I did with the talent the Lord blessed me with changed.

For you, it might be a more distinct change from something like working outside the home to selling your artwork. But it isn’t just our work life that changes when we have chronic illness. It’s every area of our lives. So…

The next step is to establish what would help you in all the areas of your life: health, family, career, and ministry. I went over this extensively in my series on Chronic Illness New Year’s Resolutions. You can click on each of those and look through those areas of your life for ideas.

After you know what you can change, adapt, and adopt in these areas of your life the final step is what I’ll be talking about next week so stay tuned!

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2020: Back to Basics

I thought I’d start off this year getting back to basics. However, in case you’re just joining me at Life Beyond Surviving here in 2020, I thought I’d start at the beginning of how and why I started this blog. I’ve always sought to be understood because I’ve never been able to fit in with the crowd. My life has always been a bit quirky. I guess you could say I’m not your average Jo…Jo!

I’ve always been different, weird if you will. So, I understand how important it is to be supported for who you are and the different circumstances you find yourself in. That is the essence of chronic illness, isn’t it? We don’t feel most people get us. Sometimes when you have been through so much you find yourself asking God why. Why me? Why so much hardship? Why can’t I just be normal?

Why? In my case, I think it’s because I can help others…and I have never been normal…

I’m only 5′ tall, wearing children’s shoes, hats, and gloves. I used to sit on a telephone book in order to see over the steering wheel.

I was born to Atheists of Jewish descent, married a nonpracticing Catholic and became a nondenominational Christian because of Amway meetings and a Jehovah’s Witness that came to my door.

I’m an older mom having had my first at 27 and my second and last child at 36. I didn’t vaccinate my son though I did my daughter. Both my kids are incredibly intelligent. My son is that as well as Autistic or what they used to call Asperger’s.

I chose to homeschool my kids and for seventeen years we fielded all sorts of questions about socialization and getting into college. In case you’re wondering, they both were able to hold their own during the inevitable inquisitions from cable guys to relatives and went on to elite universities.

I’m weird in my medical history as well. Having had Fibro since I was a teenager and several other issues shortly after giving birth to my son at 37, I’m all too familiar with the misunderstandings that chronic illness has in the general community.

In addition to Fibro, I’ve struggled with perimenopause hot flashes for over twenty years. I also have Essential Tremors, Arthritis, Osteoporosis, and I can’t even remember all the rest. In addition, I’ve had nine surgeries in my lifetime. Five of them in a 2.5 year period of time including one due to cancer.

I’ve been married 33 years. I’ve been a mom for 30 years, I homeschooled for 17 years and I’ve had chronic illnesses spanning most of my life. I have a wealth of knowledge about several topics and how to do them with chronic illness.

But do not forget to do good and to share, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased. ” -Hebrews 13:16

My heart is to share my knowledge and support others who are struggling with chronic conditions. My mission is to help them see the joy, the light, God’s light not just at the end of a tunnel (trial) they might be going through, but INside the tunnel (during the trials that are so long they don’t end this side of heaven).

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One of the Worst Things to Say to a Believer Who is Hurting-Repost

I want to follow up on my two-part series on Polly Positive to bring you this article I wrote many years ago for my Art of Eloquence communication blog. I was talking about how we communicate with those who are struggling with chronic illness actually affects them, even if the person’s intentions are good. While Polly’s intentions are to bring the person back to Jesus, the timing isn’t right and the message that comes across is quite damaging and, in fact, not biblical:

Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.” -Proverbs 16:24

Sad

I’ve seen it so many times. A sister in the Lord opens up to share a struggle she is going through in the hopes that the fellowship will bring strength to a weary heart. Instead of support, sympathy or understanding, she receives condemnation by well-meaning and faith-filled believers. In place of words of peace and comfort, they rebuke the poor sinner for not having enough faith. They remind her of the mustard seed, how faith can move mountains and how big God is, but what does that do to her suffering? Does it relieve her suffering or does it, in fact, increase it and place the blame squarely on her?

This is actually one of the worst things you can communicate to a believer who is hurting. Why? Because what you’re saying is:

1. Your suffering is your fault

By telling a believer that she doesn’t have enough faith in God, you are telling her that she wouldn’t be suffering if she only had more faith. Since she either doesn’t believe she has little faith or doesn’t see how she can have more, she feels you are telling her that she is ONLY suffering because of her own lack of faith. Essentially, this belittles her suffering. After all, people don’t feel as sorry for those who cause their own suffering as we do for those who are suffering through no fault of their own.

2. You wouldn’t suffer if you only had more faith

After being told she has caused her own suffering through unbelief, the only option given her is more belief. This is sort of like telling someone “Be happy!” Have you ever been upset and been faced with a situation in which you had to go out and put on your happy face? It was difficult, wasn’t it? Magnify that tenfold and think how difficult it would be to put on your happy face after having lost a loved one to cancer or after being faced with financial ruin. Can they do it? I’m sure some could, but what does it require? It usually requires a time of mourning, a time of rebuilding after a period of support and strength that comes from fellowship. Telling someone to have faith after you just told them they didn’t have any, isn’t helpful and it can be a huge detriment to their ability to bounce back after a devastating event.

3. Your suffering is not going to stop until you have more faith

This poor hurting soul who was reaching out for comfort and strength is now frustrated because she is being told that, no matter how the struggle began, it is now her fault, the only cure is more belief and she cannot find an ounce more in her suffering so it’s never going to end. She is now convinced her suffering will go on indefinitely! Struggles are difficult enough when we believe they are somewhat temporary, but when we see no end in sight, struggles take on new depths of sorrow.

We can all build our faith. Even the most faith-filled Christian can become even stronger in the Lord, but this growing in faith usually comes after a period of mourning the loss at the root of the struggle and a period of gathering strength from family, friends and the Lord.

Telling someone their suffering comes from their unbelief is unbiblical. Here are just three examples from scripture:

1. If all suffering comes from not having enough faith, why was Paul suffering?

And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure.” -2 Corinthians 12:7

2. If all suffering can be reversed by having more faith, why wasn’t Paul healed?

For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me.” -2 Corinthians 12:8

3. If Christians are not supposed to discuss their feelings when they are suffering, how can you explain Job?

“Even to day is my complaint bitter: my stroke is heavier than my groaning.” –Job 23:2

And the LORD turned the captivity of Job, when he prayed for his friends: also the LORD gave Job twice as much as he had before.” –Job 42:10

Telling a person who is suffering, especially when the suffering is new, that they simply need more faith is not only unhelpful, but it can frustrate and depress the person even further. This is where more communication skill is needed. Be careful at this vulnerable time in this believer’s life that you are part of the solution and not part of the problem

Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers.” Ephesians 4:29

Please share your comments, thoughts, and experiences here.  I’d love to hear from you.

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Don’t Give Up On Your Chronic Illness Friend

If you’re just tuning in to my blog, you missed a few great couple of month’s of blog posts. I invite you to scroll through. This one is probably one of the most important.

Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” – Galations 6:2

I’ve talked so far in this month’s series about being proactive and actively searching for your joy INside your tunnel (There’s light at the end of the tunnel is a saying those with a chronic issue have a hard time relating to.) I also talked about how we need to find our joy so we can keep searching or keep working at our God-given purpose that fulfills us. Last week, I talked about how a lack of joy and purpose leads us to give up on God, though the Lord loves us dearly and has a joyous life for us despite what we cannot do.

While the last three weeks were for YOU, this week is a special Don’t Give Up that is for those closest to you in your life. It’s important that WE keep looking for joy, purpose, and God’s love and support. It’s also important for those around you not to give up on YOU!

I’d love for you to share this particular post with those around you on your Facebook wall, in any of your Facebook pages or groups, and on any other social media as well as email to anybody you feel would benefit by posting it to THEIR friends and family.

Here’s my message to those around you: PLEASE don’t give up on your friends who struggle with chronic illness or any other chronic issue in their lives!

  1. Don’t give up on inviting them to parties or events.
  2. Don’t give up on asking them how they are really doing.
  3. Don’t give up on asking what you can do to help.
  4. Don’t give up on doing the little things to lift their spirits
  5. Don’t give up on being able to learn important life lessons from them!
  6. Don’t give up on them being able to make a difference in this world.
  7. Don’t give up on them in a moment of grief or weakness.
  8. Don’t give up on them overcoming and being a blessing.
  9. Don’t give up on them finding solutions.
  10. Don’t give up on them!

Those of us who live with chronic illness/issues have good days and bad days, but what we don’t have are days when we don’t need our brothers and sisters. What we don’t have is a resolution to being alone. What we don’t want is for us to be forgotten.

Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” – Galations 6:2

We still have a life to live. We still have a need to be useful, to be included, and to have fun. So, please, don’t give up on us! Don’t count us out! We have a lot to give. We just need to do it on our own schedule.

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Don’t Give Up: Your Purpose

So many of us who struggle with chronic things will, at times, feel like giving up for one reason or another. It’s not as difficult to experience trials for a short time, but after several months turns into several years, we often go through times of frustration, overwhelm, and sadness. And not just once, but it may recur several times throughout our chronic lives. This is what prompted me to write this series.

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” – Jeremiah 29:11

Last week, I shared why and how you shouldn’t give up looking for joy, humor, and beauty in your life that may live side by side with your chronic illness, financial struggles, or other long-lived difficulties. I started with that because that’s where sadness and depression begin. If you lose your joy, in time, you may find you lose your purpose, but as you can see from the above scripture, God gives a hope and a future to each of his children–even those with chronic issues.

I’d like to talk this week about that next step and ask you please don’t give up searching for your purpose. Many people feel a loss of purpose when they retire from a lifetime spent at a job or career. I know it happens less often now as most people find they can’t live on whatever (if any) retirement money they’ve accumulated. However, those of us with chronic illness have found it necessary to retire from jobs or careers and even ministries we once immersed ourselves in.

If you’re like me, you find yourself almost isolated from friends and family and from contact with the outside world. I quit working outside the home due to fatigue and when raising my kids. I have had to stop my online stores, selling on Amazon, and even my freelance writing. I have a tough time driving with my tremors now in my legs as well as my hands so I don’t go anywhere unless it’s to a doctor appointment or if my husband drives me to the store or to church. This was beginning to take its toll as I felt useless not only to my husband (I have some trouble getting enough energy to do housework at times as well) but to anyone else.

But just because you can’t go out, doesn’t mean you can’t find your purpose and work toward something you are passionate about. God has a plan for your life and He is smart enough and powerful enough to take into account any trials He already knows you are experiencing. That being said, each of us has a unique set of talents and experiences God can use to help others in various ways. The trick is to pray for Him to reveal them to you and give it time enough for Him to reveal it to you.

Some ideas for you:
1. Are you online? Social media has its problems, but it is SOCIAL after all. Get involved on a social media group. Start a Facebook group. Find a way to work from home that works for you. I was having a tough time focusing on the topics my writing clients needed as the research was too hard for me to focus on and the deadlines were difficult to meet if I was having a series of fatigue-plagued days. So, I decided to go back to writing what I’m passionate about and offering them for sale on my websites. More about that in later months.

2. Is there a ministry you have a heart for that you could help with from home? Nothing feels as good as being part of a wonderful ministry or charity!

3. Is there someone in your life who needs uplifting? You can start a daily text to uplift them. I did that once for a friend of mine going through some relocation woes with her small children. I texted her an uplifting scripture or a funny cartoon or saying. Know what I found? It uplifted me too!

4. Are you artistic in some way? I know a woman who paints and sells them online. I know another who creates incredibly gorgeous graphics with uplifting sayings. I know another who writes books and gets them traditionally published. What’s your thing?

There are a myriad of things out there if you give yourself enough time, focus and prayer to become clear to you. Drop me a note and tell me what you do or what you’d like to, or what the Lord has shown you after reading this. I’d love to hear!

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” – Jeremiah 29:11

Next week, I’m going to be sharing about how Satan uses our loss of joy and purpose to lead us to give up on the Lord.

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Don’t Give Up Series Begins

A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.” – Proverbs 17:22

I thought I’d start the holiday season with a series of blog articles about not giving up. So many have a profound sadness or depression around this time of year because it reminds us of who is no longer with us. It chronicles what we can no longer do or what we no longer have since last holiday season.

Most of those struggling with chronic illness or other chronic issues will come to a time of desperation at some point or another. We all get to a level of discomfort, overwhelm, sadness, or frustration (or all of the above) when we feel we can no longer go on or we no longer want to. In fact, it may happen several times over the course of your life. It certainly has with me!

There are times when I feel like giving up. I’ve never really been suicidal, but I have had thoughts along the lines of, “God, if I meet with an unfortunate accident, I wouldn’t be at all upset! In fact, if you’d hurry that along, I’d be grateful!” But so many with chronic illness or issues feel a deep depression or thoughts of wanting their suffering to end in any way possible. If that’s you right now, I’d like to speak to your spirit this month.

The first thing I’d like to share with you is not to give up looking for your joy. Joy is something that leaves you first when you are overwhelmed, frustrated, and saddened by the long, difficult road of chronic issues. I’ve talked about this many times, but the phrase, “There’s light at the end of the tunnel” really bothers me and angers some with a chronic journey because our tunnel doesn’t end this side of heaven. So, if your tunnel doesn’t end, how can you see the light at the end of it?

Why you should not give up looking for joy:
1. The obvious answer is that without joy life doesn’t seem worth living. Without joy, there is only misery inside of that chronic illness tunnel.

2. Believe it or not, there IS joy inside your tunnel! No matter how dismal, draining, or painful your tunnel is. The beauty that was there around you is still there whether or not you’re looking for it. The grass is just as green and peaceful looking. The flowers are just as vibrant. Your children are just as precious. Your spouse’s smile is just as soothing.

3. The more you search for the joy, the more of it you will find. The more you find, the more it will minister to your soul.

4. The more you find your joy, the more you can share it with others even though you are going through tough times. This ties right in with my article for next week on purpose so I’ll have more on that next week.

How not to give up looking for joy:
1. If you’re going to find the joy, you’ve got to actively search for it. Satan has a habit of hiding the joys surrounding those who are in trials or struggling with things. Depression moves us away from our joy and isolates us from others. Those of us who have chronic illness are isolated enough already.

2. Actively searching for something is very different from casually noticing things so you will need to be conscious of every opportunity to find the humor, the beauty, and the kindnesses as life brings you to them. You must keep asking yourself, “What joy can I see right now?”

3. They say it takes 21 days to make a habit. After a few weeks of actively, consciously searching for the joy, you will find yourself able to see it without being active about it.

4. So, challenge yourself to take 21 days to find the joys, the humor, the beauty in each place you find yourself. Here are some ideas for you: Write down what you are thankful for each day. Keep a journal of the beauty around your house, your family, your job, your church, and your situation. What’s funny about the ridiculous situations you find yourself in? What has made you smile each day?

5. And then after 21 days or a month or so, take out your notes and reread them. Take special note of just how many you were able to find.

A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.” – Proverbs 17:22

Next week, I’ll be sharing about the next thing to leave those with chronic issues: a sense of purpose. Stay with me on this journey. Check back next week and please share this with friends and family.

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Four Things Satan Uses Against the Chronically Ill: Conclusion

Satan’s ultimate goal is to separate us from God and he will use whatever he can to distract us, deceive us, divide us, and finally to destroy us, but there are a few things we can do to combat this. Knowing that this is his goal is only half the battle. We also need to know how to defeat his efforts in our lives.

For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.” – Jeremiah 29:11

  1. Be Aware: The first thing we need to do is to be aware that this is what is happening. Most of the time we are so busy fighting for our health and struggling with our daily issues to even notice that this is what he is doing. Chronic illness is the PERFECT target for Satan. It’s much easier to attack the weak and weary. But once we know that this is exactly what he does, we can be on the lookout and be proactive in thwarting his efforts to derail us.
  2. Be in the Word: Don’t let a day go by without reading and feeding your soul. Don’t let a day go by without going into your prayer closet and spending time with the Lord. If you can’t go to church, have church come to you. When I can’t make it out to church, we watch it on TV. I love Dr. Charles Stanley. I even record his sermons to watch later.
  3. Make an effort to connect: It’s easy to let ourselves drift from our support whether that’s family, friends, or church. Make an effort to get out if you can, invite others in, or reach out over the internet. Any time with others on the phone or over text is golden when you are alone with your thoughts on a regular basis.
  4. Find your calling: Find what feeds your soul and adapt it if need be to your health/financial issues. Make art, write those stories, take those pictures, blog about that topic that inspires you. See how many you can inspire, support, help, and feed with your talents. This makes for a productive and joyous heart.

God created each one of us with a purpose. Do you think that just because He has allowed chronic illness or financial struggles in our lives that He has taken that purpose away? No. That purpose may be handled differently or you may have a new purpose.

For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.” – Jeremiah 29:11

No matter what struggle we must endure this side of heaven, God has blessed us with the tools we need to fulfill our purpose. That starts by understanding how Satan works to derail us and taking steps to use God’s Word, God’s people, and your God-given talents to take back your joy. Who’s with me?

Next month, I’ll be sharing a new series that will go a bit more into depth on our purpose despite chronic illness/issues for a series I’m doing called Don’t Give Up! I hope you’ll join me!

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Four Things Satan Uses Against the Chronically Ill: Part 4

So Dr. Charles Stanley’s sermon on the four things Satan uses against us that I watched last month really touched me because I felt it applied in a specific way to those with chronic illness.

The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.” – John 10:10

Satan’s ultimate goal is to separate us from God. First, he uses our chronic illness to distract us from our joy and from our purpose. Next, he deceives us into thinking we don’t matter. Then, he divides us from our support (family and friends), our church, and God’s Word in the hope that we will be distracted from God. When he does that, he stands a better chance of succeeding in the destruction of our faith.

At our lowest, we may question if God still loves us. There may be times when we may think that, if God really did love us, He wouldn’t allow us to go through all of this. At that point, we may begin to pull away from our church, our church family, and even God.

Knowing that Satan is out to destroy us, we need to be on the lookout for situations we find ourselves in that are ripe for Satan to use for just this purpose. I don’t know about you, but there are times when I’m so tired I don’t have enough energy to sit up. I am so exhausted that all I want to do is go to sleep. I can’t prevent the times when I’m too tired to go out or in too much pain to do something for someone, but I can control how I react to that.

I’m pretty ornery by nature. If someone tells me I can’t do something, I’m bound and determined to try (unless it’s something I don’t agree with anyway). I’m not saying I always recognize Satan’s tricks at the time or that I can always keep a sunny attitude. I’m just saying that I can decide to do whatever it may take for me to control my attitude and turn it around.

There are still times I am down. I still have times when I get angry and don’t recognize that I have blessings I’m not concentrating on at the moment. But I do eventually notice and I do eventually turn myself around. And I challenge you to do it too. I challenge myself to help you.

The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.” – John 10:10

The way I look at it, if Satan’s desire is to turn me from my Lord and Savior and from my God-given purpose, then it’s my great pleasure to throw it back in his face as I cling even closer to Him and get creative to find a way to serve others according to His will however I can! Won’t you join me?

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