Six Things God Uses to Encourage Part 3

God uses six things to encourage us and, so far this month, we’ve looked at God’s Word, music, and Fellowship. This week, I’d like to talk about thankfulness.

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God;” -Philippians 4:6

It sounds counterintuitive to say that in the midst of great suffering we should be thankful, but it does help. First of all, we are not thankful for suffering, but we may be thankful that our suffering brings understanding of other. We may be thankful that we can now understand enough to help others. We may be thankful that we will grow from this experience. But above all, we can be thankful that God never abandons us in our suffering. He is always near, giving us strength, giving us peace, giving us guidance and direction.

Secondly, it is true that the more we are thankful for what we have, the more we see the positives that struggles bring us. Further, as we get used to being thankful for the beauty around us, the opportunities that come our way, the fact that God is with us, the people in our lives that help us, the more joy we are able to have.

I’m not saying this is easy, but it is powerful! At first, you may only see one good thing in the mess that you perceive to be your life. Soon, you can see more. Keep looking for them. You see what you look for. Look for a red car and you will see them everywhere. Look for a blue car and you may never notice the red ones. Think of this as an exercise similar to I Spy that you played as a kid. See how many blue cars (blessings, joys, good things, beautiful things) you can see each day. After a while, you won’t notice the red cars (negative things) as much.

This is a powerful encouragement to cultivate in yourself and that is why I discuss it frequently here on the blog and why I have included it as a theme in the Life Beyond Surviving Facebook Group. I post a prompt each week called, Thankful Thursday as a chance for you to think more about the good things in your life. I hope you participate with me as I get just as much out of them as my members do!

For all things are for your sakes, that grace, having spread through the many, may cause thanksgiving to abound to the glory of God.” – 2 Corinthians 4:15

Next week, I’m going to talk about how humor is another way that may encourage us through difficult times. Join me!

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Life Beyond Surviving Memes

I have created a batch of memes to post on social media and in the Life Beyond Surviving group on Facebook. Some were created specifically for chronic illness and others were created as JoJoisms, but they fit this site too.

I don’t think most of them are posted anywhere on the site so I wanted to post a few of the best ones. You may find some you relate to.

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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: On God

If you’re a regular Life Beyond Surviving reader, you know that my mission is to support those with chronic illness/issues because the chronic part of chronic illness is what builds our stress, our fatigue, and eventually (unfortunately) our faith. I believe Satan starts by hiding our joy and our purpose. Once that is out of our view, we begin to question why we are here on this earth at all.

Give thanks to the God of heaven, for his steadfast love endures forever.” – Psalm 136:26

If you don’t see much joy in your life and you don’t feel you contribute in any way to your family or your finances or eternity, you begin to question not only why you’re here, but why God would allow you to go through life held under the thumbs of chronic issues that have left you with so little. I know because I’ve been there myself.

But I’m here this week to ask you not to give up on the Lord. He hasn’t given up on you! If you’ve read the Bible, you know there are many stories of how God used people who were in the middle of trials for incredible purposes. Think of how Paul was never healed and was in prison when he wrote Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon. While he was in captivity and suffering with a “thorn” in his side, he wrote to encourage the early churches. God used his trials for a great kingdom purpose and He wants to use you too!

Even if you look at things from a secular perspective, you will see how great things were never accomplished easily. I know Hollywood loves to show a good “rags to riches” story, almost all biographies of successful people have a lot of heartache and struggle in them. I don’t know of anyone who has accomplished great things who didn’t struggle. The more success, the more the struggle. And what’s more amazing with God is that He uses us despite our struggles and sometimes BECAUSE of them!

I’d never be able to help support and uplift those who struggle with chronic illness to the degree I can if I had never had to live through it myself. What do you live with? What do you understand because of your struggles that you can use for the benefit of others?

Once you understand that God can use you, you can begin to see how life isn’t all that useless…all that dark. You can begin to see a purpose and find some joy in what you can do for others or your family and the kingdom of God. It’s at this point that you can begin to feel less of your struggle while allowing you to focus more on the good you can do and feel.

God loves you. He hasn’t abandoned you. He has a purpose for you and a joyous life for you to lead despite all of the struggles and trials life brings you. If you don’t feel that way now, ask Him to show you. Pray for God to show you your joy, your purpose. Once that’s done, you will find yourself growing closer to the Father and that can only lead to more joy and put your troubles further from your focus.

There is a better life to be had. We may not be able to find them on our own, but God is always with us. He loves us and He wants the best for us. Often it takes a relationship with Him in order to see that. I pray you find that in your life. How can I help you?

Give thanks to the God of heaven, for his steadfast love endures forever.” – Psalm 136:26

Next week, I’ll be sharing part four of this Don’t Give Up series, but this next one isn’t for you as much as it is for those around you! Check back next week for it. You’ll be glad you did!

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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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The Case for Wrinkles

I wrote this about eight years ago. I had hoped it would go viral and there would be world acceptance of wrinkles by now. Maybe you’d be willing to pass it along and help the cause?


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At the end of a long, joyous, productive, meaningful life, what will people see when they look into your face? WRINKLES! And they won’t be thinking, “that face shows a joyous, productive, meaningful life” either. They’ll be thinking, “boy is that woman OLD!” Well, I’d like to change all that and I’m asking for your help.

It’s important to use your communication skills to change the world around you for the better. Why start with wrinkles? Well, I’ve written articles about grace in politics and faith before, but it struck me that I never did start at the beginning. In order to start a movement for world grace, I think it needs to begin with something more universal and easier to discuss. If you think of it in colloquial movie terms, this article is a prequel.

Every one of us, if we are blessed, will live to see the day when our face has an abundance of creases and lines. There will come a day when even the fresh-faced, four-year-old will be weathered. I’d like to start at the beginning with something we can probably all agree on and feel confident enough to pass along. I say wrinkles are desirable (dare I say fashionable) and I’m going to prove it.

The Case for Wrinkles

  1. Wrinkles are better than the alternative!
    Yes, given the alternative to growing old, wrinkles come in on top! Death is a very distant second! Once you realize how much worse you could have it, wrinkles don’t seem so bad.
  2. Wrinkles are soft.
    Yes, the more wrinkled your face is, the softer it gets. My 11 y/o son loves to touch my 48-year-old face and always comments, “It’s so soft!”
  3. Wrinkles are knowledge.
    The more wrinkles you have, the more knowledge you MUST have accumulated, even if by sheer luck! You just know things younger people don’t. You’ve lived through stuff.
  4. Wrinkles are earned.
    Wrinkles are not some honorary badge. They are earned! Not just anyone can have these babies! Laugh lines mean you must have laughed. A joyous life, even if fraught with struggles, is a prize, indeed. Wrinkles mean you’ve endured, you’ve persevered. Wrinkles mean you have really lived.
  5. Wrinkles show you have character.
    Wrinkles are character lines and mean you aren’t just any old body, you’re a character! Wrinkles make you cute, cuddly, adorable, wise, and worthy of honor!
  6. Wrinkles are wisdom!
    If you have acquired wrinkles, you MUST have also acquired some amount of wisdom. At the very least you remember history like it was yesterday. You remember what life was like before iPods and can regale the younger generation with quaint stories of what kids did before PlayStation 3. If you’ve really been paying attention or have garnered an education, you can teach people stuff-stuff they might really need to know!
  7. Wrinkles give you license to be silly again.
    Let’s face it. When you see a 4-year-old being silly, you think, “How cute!” When you see a 40-year-old being silly, you think, “What an idiot.” When you see a wrinkled old guy being silly, you think, “How cute!”
  8. Wrinkles are your ticket to free help.
    If a 29 y/o woman is having a hard time with her lawnmower, you’d rather not take a minute to help her get it started because, hey, you’re busy and her husband will get around to helping her…eventually. If you see an 80-year-old woman struggling to get her Christmas lights up, you’ll take three hours of your day to string them for her!
  9. Wrinkles mean you don’t get any more pimples!
    One of the great perks of getting wrinkles is that your face no longer breaks out! You don’t need to worry about those embarrassing blemishes due to oily skin when your face has dried up and turned raisin!
  10. Wrinkles allow you more time to have fun.
    Once you realize you’re no Farrah Fawcett (I know I’m dating myself) anymore, you can stop worrying about your looks and focus on the fun of life. Not having to worry about your makeup, the latest hairstyles, and your Jordache Jeans (now I’m REALLY dating myself) means you can wear what’s comfortable and have more time to enjoy life unimpeded by the bonds of high fashion!

You and I may not agree on politics, religion or even what to watch on TV, but I’ll bet we can forge one bond today and agree to declare to the rest of the world that wrinkles are desirable.

If you agree, forward this blog link to everyone you know, wrinkled and non-wrinkled. You don’t need to send it to 25 friends in the next five minutes, but if you do, you will have contributed 25 new giggles to the world! You will also have contributed to the beginning of the Wrinkle Movement.

Together we CAN rid the world of the stigma of wrinkles so that our children will grow up in a wrinkle friendly environment! Who’s with me?

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What CAN you do? – Part 2

Last week I shared with you my first step in focusing on what you can do rather than what you can’t. The next step in the process of asking yourself what CAN you do is to ask yourself what you are already doing that you could put more of your energy into.

There are a few reasons this helps:
1. It gives you a purpose and that gives your life meaning.
2. It allows you to put your focus more on positive things.
3. The less free time you give yourself, the less time you will find your mind wandering to negative thoughts.
4. The less free time you have, the less time you have to dwell on what you can’t do because you’re doing great things!
5. The more you do for others, the more joy you will feel and the more you will know you are not useless!

In order to put more of your focus or time into things that give your life more meaning, you may need to focus less on things that don’t. Do you have a task you’ve taken on that you don’t need to be doing? Did you start a side business, but have no energy for it? Have you been doing something you thought you needed to continue, but the Lord has been asking you to give it up? Now would be the time to review and make changes in order to do more of what already brings you joy and gives joy to others.

To that end, what are you doing now that you could put more of your energy and focus into?
1. Job?
2. Kids?
3. Church?
4. Online ministry?
5. Online business?
6. Art?
7. Writing?
8. Blogging?

Well, that’s it for step two. I’ll be back next week with step three!

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What CAN You Do? – Part 1

Chronic illness takes so much away from you that your thoughts often dwell on what you can’t do anymore. I can’t work. I can’t go out today. I can’t clean the house. I can’t do for my kids. I can’t help the church. I can’t help a friend. I can’t feel useful. And that right there is the cause of sadness and even deep depression.

But it doesn’t have to be. I’ve felt that way myself, but I have developed some habits that have helped me to get out of that funk and feel useful which, in turn, increases the joy I feel day to day.

It all started with a question I asked myself. “What CAN you do?” You see, I had many times when I felt like I was too tired to DO anything. Too brain fogged to THINK of anything. Too overwhelmed to make any sense. And yet, I always found SOMEthing I could do that would make a difference, that would be positive, that would be of value to…someone, anyone.

There are four parts to this process and I’m going to cover one part per week this month. The first step is to think less about what you can’t do and more about what you CAN do. It sounds simple. It’s not. It is the hardest step in the process, but it’s worth every effort.

So many devotionals I’ve read and so many of the PMA books out there are like the Just Say No campaign. Just think positive. Just be thankful. People have it so much worse than you! Well, it may be true, but it isn’t helpful, especially when you’re in the throws of despair or you are still grieving the loss of your old life.

But there are several things that can help you to begin to think this way and here they are in no particular order. Do the ones that speak to you. Use the ones that you can and see if you can start others later as you begin to heal from the overwhelm.

  1. Start a gratitude journal
    You don’t have to publicize it. Just write down one thing each day that you are grateful for. One new item each day. Then, after a week, look back on it. After a month, after a year… The more you see in your journal, the more you realize just how blessed you are even if you do have big things to deal with.
  2. Find the humor in life’s other struggles
    I can’t tell you how many times I have had little weird things happen. These little weird things didn’t always seem really little to me at the time. But later on, I found them to be much smaller than the illnesses and conditions I face and so I now see them as not as important. I see them more as inconveniences that are kind of funny…sometimes at the time!
  3. Compare the size of the other struggles to your big ones
    If you can’t find the humor in the other struggles that come along or you still get upset when things are compounded by all life’s glitches, you can try comparing the big struggles to the little short-lived ones.

    You’re already tired and in pain, but you go to the kitchen to make dinner for your family and the oven knob falls off in your hand. You pick up the pot and the handle falls off. About this time, you’re probably thinking that someone is out to get you.

    You’re frustrated and angry, but what if you could stop and think about the size of these issues as compared with your bigger struggles, the size of your love for your family, and the blessings you have despite the problems you are in? What if you looked around and asked yourself, “Where’s Alan Fundt? Am I on Candid Camera? What if you saw the humor in it. What if you skipped to the part where you put the handles back on and that problem was solved?
  4. Think about how the Lord might be leading you to better things
    My husband was fired several years ago from a job we moved to Indiana for. We had to move out of the house we were going to buy. Because of that move, my new doctor wanted to check to see if a huge fibroid I had in my uterus was still there–even though in all likelihood, it was gone due to my age. The fibroid was gone, but a cyst on my ovary was found instead. Surgery to remove that cyst and the fallopian tube attached to it revealed a rare and aggressive cancer in its infancy.

    If it were not for that series of events starting with that job loss, I’d be dead now. Sometimes bad things lead to good things. Sometimes we are privileged to know about them. Sometimes we are not. So, if you don’t see it, just think about how it MIGHT have benefited you. It sure did for me!

Remember, this is the step that takes the most time, but the good news is that you can do them simultaneously with the other steps…which I will discuss in the coming weeks.

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