It’s not easy to find the good things hidden inside our struggles, but finding them while we are going through them is quite difficult. So far we’ve talked about three ways to find the good, the joy, in the trials of life. This month I’d like to share my 4th way to find the blessings inside the struggles of life.
Not only do we develop our strengths by climbing our mountains, but we may finally be able to lay down our own strength and allow God to lead us. I’ve always been a doer. I’ve always been a hard worker and I’ve got the grit that comes from having to overcome struggles. While that develops character, it also develops a sense of pride or at least stubbornness. lol
Have you ever been so determined to do something that you didn’t stop to consult the Almighty to see if it’s what He wants for you? I know I have. When that happens, God often sends a tornado to destroy any pride you might have left so that you have no choice but to rely upon the God of the Heavens. Sometimes God needs to get our attention so we are listening to where He wants us to go because where He’s sending us is better than where we were praying we’d go!
Unless we die to self and take direction from the One who created the universe, we will not get where God wants us to go. Just as the seeds must die and be reborn as a tree, we often have to die to self to have our lives reborn into what the Father has for us to be…and live the life He meant for us.
I’ve been sharing some key ways of finding the good in the bad things we go through down here on planet earth. We do that by understanding that we couldn’t climb high and gain success if the mountain was as smoothe as glass. We do that by understanding that the more amazing the success, the more difficult the journey. And we do that by understanding that we are sometimes tested not to show our weakness, but to discover or even grow our strengths!
I don’t know about you, but the difficulties I’ve been through have given me the strength I needed to deal with what was coming down the road a bit. God prepares us. Body builders have to strengthen their muscles in order to life heavier weights. Gymnasts need to strengthen their bodies in order to do all the amazing tricks.
Just as athletes must strengthen their bodies, we must strengthen our minds and our resolve in order to do the work the Lord has for us. Just to face the growing difficulties of life on a fallen world, we need to strengthen our character, our resolve, and our mindsets.
Strength is something often admired, but most people have no idea what it took to get there. Building strength in an area often takes difficulties endured that often look like trials and hardships. But they yield some amazing fruit!!
I’ve often been asked how I am able to find a way to focus on the joy in my life amidst the trials of life. I thought I’d take some time to share some of the more simple ways I’ve managed this. I’m not saying it’s easy. Just that it’s simple.
Since it’s often the case that those going through life’s difficulties have very little time, I thought I’d share just one per month for the next few months. Also, this gives you time to make it a habit you fit into your life among the other “stuff” you’re going through.
I recently saw a quote by Wintley Phipps that I think illustrates the most important concept of finding joy in the trials. Wintley said, “Son, if the mountain were smooth, you couldn’t climb it.” If you think about life that way, it almost makes you wish for the mountains in your life. We wouldn’t be able to rise above the muck and mire of the every day to do the extraordinary things that inspire and motivate others if we didn’t have our mountains to climb.
We wouldn’t be able to see the majestic view at the top of the mountains of life if we weren’t able to climb the rocky terrain to get up to the top. And lets face it, if you’re thinking we could always take a short cut and fly over the tops of the mountains and catch a glimpse of the view, you’re not taking into account the experience you give up by not climbing it for yourself.
What I’ve learned by climbing to the top of my mountains has helped my readers and friends and family get through their own difficulties. Not every difficulty is alike, but knowing a friend was able to get through the death of her son or an abusive relationship or an illness, helps me face what life throws at me…even if it isn’t exactly the same kind of issue.
Let’s face it, life is difficult down here on earth. We will graduate to a perfect life in heaven, but for now, aren’t we better off knowing our brothers and sisters have paved the way dealing with trials such that we can learn from their experience? Here’s another word of wisdom that sums up why:
Whether or not you have a chronic issue/illness, you will face trials in your life. It’s not a matter of if, but only when. And most of us face trials multiple times in our lives–some of us, more than one at a time.
It’s sometimes hard to find the joy inside things that feel like the end of your world as you know it, isn’t it? I’ve noticed that there are different ways in which we can see trials and, that one fact alone, can determine how we face them.
When we’re at the bottom of our trial mountain, it can be hard enough to see a way up let alone how we can get there. But if we look at that mountain in a different way, we can see that there is a way up. You see that mountain up there in the picture? One side of it looks straight up. It looks hard to climb. Hard to navigate. But look at the back of that mountain? There’s a slope. It’s a steep slope, but a slope is better than straight up any day of the week!
Sometimes that slope on the other side is NOT as easy to climb, but that only means we should look at it a bit cockeyed. See how tilting the picture of the mountain gives us a better view of the slope in that picture? It may be harder to climb than turning the picture will make it appear, but what I’m saying is that there is your best shot. By being able to see that other side of the mountain with a tilt and enlarging the terrain allows us to learn better how to navigate our way up and over.
God often allows obstacles in our way to strengthen us-to build us into the person who can fulfill our purpose. Sometimes the storm clears the way. Sometimes storms are there to prove to us that we have strength we didn’t think we possessed. And that strength always comes in handy, if not for our own needs, then for the needs of our friends and family.
When we go through trials, we often feel they are a big part of our identity or, worse yet, ALL that we are. We are so much more than just the struggles we go through. God often builds us through our struggles, but He wants them to create a stronger soul able to reach and inspire others because nobody escapes this world unscathed. EVERYONE will have trials and those trials are more easily lived if we have others to look to who go before us and pave the way.
We are so much more than our struggles. We are so much more than our pain. We are shaped by them, but we are not defined by them alone!
The road to success is often paved with rocky terrain, u-turns, detours, and mountains to climb. Look at almost any success story and you’ll notice that the success you see is only the snap shot from the top of the mountain. When you read the book or watch the movie of their life, you see the rocky road they had to take to get there. And isn’t that a more inspiring story anyway?
Isn’t it inspiring to know that you aren’t the only one who struggles? Isn’t it nice to know that you, too, can achieve? That your struggle is what MAKES your success and not the reason you CAN’T succeed?!
I created this meme a while back when I saw a topic on social media talking about race and how it identifies who they are. I disagree. It’s only part of who you are. Who you are is SO much more than that and it’s so much more than a condition or illness you have. You are so much more than the struggles you have. God made each of us an individual-uniquely designed for such a time as this. He wants us to use the gifts and skills He’s given us to help others. If you can’t help others directly, you can inspire them with who you are and how you handle the trials you face.
So many with chronic illness believe they have nothing to give, but that couldn’t be further from the truth! Inspiration is worth so much more often times than giving a million dollars to a charity. It’s worth so much more than physically being there to help someone up because you can lift them spiritually!
Remember, “If you give a man a fish, you feed him for a day. If you teach a man to fish, you feed him for a lifetime.” -Matthew 4:19. If you lift someone up off the floor, you help them get up once. If you lift them up spiritually, you may lift them up for a lifetime. That is what this blog is all about. That is what I strive to make my entire life about.
If I can inspire just one person, then my struggle has a higher purpose, doesn’t it? That higher purpose has another purpose because, in living my life to inspire others, it also inspires me to keep going! It gives me a purpose where I may have believed I had none.
Living with chronic issues or trials isn’t necessarily an end to your purpose here on planet Earth. It can be THE purpose you were put here by God to serve: an inspiration to others so they don’t give up on what God put THEM here to do!
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!
My pastor shared this story on Sunday. I tried to verify it, but some say it’s a true story. Others say it can’t be confirmed. The story is the same everywhere I looked, but the names of the missionaries are never revealed. It’s a great story either way so I’m going to share it because it has a great message.
Two Babes in a Manger
In 1994, two Americans answered an invitation from the Russian Department of Education to teach morals and ethics (based on biblical principles) in the Russian public schools. They were invited to teach at prisons, businesses, the fire and police departments and a large orphanage. About 100 boys and girls who had been abandoned, abused, and left in the care of a government-run program were in the orphanage. They relate the following story in their own words:
It was nearing the holiday season, 1994, time for our orphans to hear, for the first time, the traditional story of Christmas. We told them about Mary and Joseph arriving in Bethlehem. Finding no room in the inn, the couple went to a stable, where the baby Jesus was born and placed in a manger. Throughout the story, the children and orphanage staff sat in amazement as they listened. Some sat on the edges of their stools, trying to grasp every word.
Completing the story, we gave the children three small pieces of cardboard to make a crude manger. Each child was given a small paper square, cut from yellow napkins I had brought with me. No colored paper was available in the city. Following instructions, the children tore the paper and carefully laid strips in the manger for straw. Small squares of flannel (cut from a worn-out nightgown an American lady was throwing away as she left Russia), were used for the baby’s blanket. A doll-like baby was cut from tan felt we had brought from the United States.
The orphans were busy assembling their manger as I walked among them to see if they needed any help. All went well until I got to one table where little Misha sat. He looked to be about 6-years-old and had finished his project. As I looked at the little boy’s manger, I was startled to see not one, but two babies in the manger.
Quickly, I called for the translator to ask the lad why there were two babies in the manger. Crossing his arms in front of him and looking at this completed manger scene, the child began to repeat the story very seriously. For such a young boy, who had only heard the Christmas story once, he related the happenings accurately — until he came to the part where Mary put the baby Jesus in the manger. Then Misha started to ad-lib.
He made up his own ending to the story as he said, “And when Mary laid the baby in the manger, Jesus looked at me and asked me if I had a place to stay. I told him I have no mamma and I have no papa, so I don’t have any place to stay. Then Jesus told me I could stay with him. But I told him I couldn’t, because I didn’t have a gift to give him like everybody else did. But I wanted to stay with Jesus so much, so I thought about what I had that maybe I could use for a gift. I thought maybe if I kept him warm, that would be a good gift.”
So I asked Jesus, ‘If I keep you warm, will that be a good enough gift?’ And Jesus told me, ‘If you keep me warm, that will be the best gift anybody ever gave me.’ So I got into the manger, and then Jesus looked at me and he told me I could stay with him’ — for always.”
As little Misha finished his story, his eyes brimmed full of tears that splashed down his little cheeks. Putting his hand over his face, his head dropped to the table and his shoulders shook as he sobbed and sobbed. The little orphan had found someone who would never abandon nor abuse him, someone who would stay with him — for always.
And the Americans? They had learned the lesson they had come there to teach – that it is not what you have in your life, but who you have in your life that really counts. We should all give thanks for the people that “keep us” — in life — and for all of God’s many blessings to us: freedom from want, life, love, togetherness, and for the enduring love of Jesus Christ, the one person who keeps us warm and safe for always.
God made us unique individuals, but as a kid, I was always trying to fit in. It never worked and it was exhausting! I never thought I was good enough, tall enough, __ enough.
My hair was stick straight when big curly hair was in fashion. Now, when straight hair is in, mine is curly on steroids!
I’m 5’ nuthin’ and wear children’s size shoes, gloves, and I just fit back into my dd’s old size 10/12 children’s T-shirt! 🤗
My first car came complete with bucket seats and a telephone book. (Yup! I sat on a telephone book so I could see over the steering wheel!) And my kitchen stove has a matching step stool so I can stir the tall pots. 😉
You know what I learned from all this? To embrace my inner weirdness. (Hat tip to my dd who coined the phrase) You know what? Ever since then, I enjoy being me!
If you always feel like you don’t measure up, try looking at yourself as God does. He created you to be you – not a copy of someone else. Embrace YOUR inner weirdness and enjoy being who He created you to be!
As many of you know, I’m a pretty odd duck. Weird stuff has happened to me just about all my life. Sometimes that’s made for difficult times. Sometimes it’s been a blessing in disguise.
Going through my Facebook memories today, I found this little story that could have ended badly but turned out to be just another unusual event in my life. Thankful to God for His blessings to me.
On this date five years ago, I was just sitting and minding my own odd business when suddenly, out of the right side corner of my eye, I saw a bunch of flashing bright white geometric shapes (mostly triangles) that formed a crescent moon. It was just below and slightly right of wherever I was looking. It was reflective and sparkly and lasted about 15 or 20 minutes making it hard for me to see beyond it. My husband was convinced I was going blind so (REALLY long story short) I was rushed to urgent care.
Drs and nurses had no idea but feared it was a retina tear or detatched retina. They suggested I see an opthomologist the next morning and explain exactly what I experienced.
It was really hard to explain what I saw. Coincidentally, I had gotten a piece of junk mail with a weird reflective sticker inside that looked exactly like what I saw so I took it with me.
After a thorough examination to rule out anything more serious, it turned out it was a painless occular migraine. Now, if you have to have a migraine, this is the kind of migraine you want! Painless is always the way to go, if at all possible! 😂
Thankful this week for God’s many blessings in my life including all of those I’m able to enjoy this year having lost 33 pounds!
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.
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.”