Were you blessed to be born without a comfort zone?

It’s not easy having chronic illness, is it? Nope. It’s not something I’d wish for nor is it something I’d wish upon even those who “done me wrong.” I’ve written several times before about how I’ve found blessings inside the struggles: joys that were there inside the trials right along side the pain and fatigue. However, what I never wrote about before is how the struggle itself has strengthened me and my faith as nothing else could have!

Just like how working out builds a strong body (unless you have chronic illness lol) or how an athlete trains to be strong enough to win the big race, our struggles can strengthen us and mine have!

I’m sure you’ve seen those memes on social media about how “Nobody ever accomplished anything while in their comfort zone.” “You gotta get out of your comfort zone if you expect to do anything with your life!” Well, I’ll bet you were thinking, “I have chronic illness. I don’t HAVE a comfort zone!” And you’re probably right!

If you’re one of us (chronic illness/issues sufferers), you don’t think in terms of comfort. You think in terms of what is the least painful, the least energy zapping. You just work to make sure your pain or fatigue or discomfort isn’t as bad as it could be because there isn’t any real comfort inside the Chronic Illness Zone, is there?

Well, this got me thinking that so much of my life has be filled with not only pain and fatigue, but difficulties of various kinds. I was blessed to be born without a comfort zone. I was a painfully shy kid. What’s the worst thing for a shy kid? Having to meet new people! But that’s exactly what I had to do every few years. New town, new state, new school, new neighborhood…

I couldn’t look people in the eye when I talked to them. Shy people usually stay in the background: The Comfort Zone of the Socially Awkward. But not me! I couldn’t. I was always the new kid. The one dressed different, the one who called jeans “dungarees.” The one who pronounced SePULveda Blvd as SepulVEda. The one who was 4′ 10″. The one who had a NY accent in Virginia. I stuck out like a sore thumb.

And shyness wasn’t the only area of my life that was difficult either. As I’ve shared many times here on Life Beyond Surviving, I’ve had chronic illness and other chronic conditions most of my life. What I haven’t written about much is all the other ways in which life has been challenging for me.

I’m one of the only Christians in my family. I’m of Jewish heritage, but most of my family is either atheist or agnostic. Some are/were Jehovah’s Witnesses. It has always been a bit challenging at family gatherings.

In the 33 years we’ve been married, my husband and I have had quite a number of issues to deal with. My husband was born in Mexico so we’ve had some issues with racism and early on in our marriage we had some financial issues we had to overcome.

Several years ago he lost his permanent job and he’s been doing consulting work ever since. It is rather challenging, especially when the economy isn’t doing well or, say, a pandemic hits and jobs aren’t as plentiful. He’s had a lot of times in between assignments where we had to find alternative ways to make extra money.

Once, during a year of his unemployment, we had to work quite hard in our own business buying HUD homes and reselling them to real estate investors to fix up and resell. It was especially difficult to invest in real estate this way because HUD doesn’t like investors and they made it increasingly difficult for us to make a profit, but we persevered. We did earn a living doing this for a while.

We also worked for a while selling our own products on Amazon until we found that Amazon, while a FABULOUS platform for buyers, is very biased against sellers. I was constantly on the phone with a lawyer trying to resolve oversights where Amazon allowed scammers to spoof our listings and then sell subpar versions of our products or send none at all to the customer.

I’ve had to work 10x harder than most at just about everything. Maybe you have too. And yet, I’d still say I was blessed to be born without a comfort zone because I never felt hard work was an option. It’s just part of life. Knowing that made my adjustments easier because most of achievement is mindset, isn’t it?

Not having ever had a comfort zone has benefited me greatly because I assume I’ll have to work hard…at EVERYTHING! I expect it. I plan for it. I embrace it. Life with challenges has taught me to endure, but also to see the joy not only in what hard work brings, but in what hard work does. It builds character and it builds trust and faith in the Lord to bring you through just about everything the world can throw at you!

I’ve said it before. God uses everything for our good and we can use everything for our own good as well. Just like the butterfly struggling to get out of its cocoon builds strength in its wings, our own struggles build strength in US. I choose to look at life’s struggles and difficulties this way and it has helped me to see more of the joy in life and build my own strength to be who I need to be while I’m doing it.

God is my comfort zone. What say you?

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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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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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Pet Peeve: Someone has it worse than you!

I’m in the middle of working on the rest of the Finding Joy in the Trials series. I promise to get some more out soon, but until then I had to share this.  Over the last several years, I’ve seen several memes on Facebook that said something like:

I’ve heard that no matter what you’re going through, someone has it worse.”

Not only is that dismissive of someone’s trials, but it causes people to feel afraid to reach out to those who can be supportive and helpful.  Further, while we are all dealing with struggles, each one handles things differently. What we need during times of stress is uplifting not shaming.

It doesn’t help you to know that somebody has a more dire problem or is more in debt. What you need are answers.  It most certainly can help you to know that you aren’t alone, but the first thing someone needs when they are hurting is to know they are understood and that their feelings are valid.

Can we all agree to be uplifting rather than dismissive? Could we choose to help and support first before we tell someone their needs aren’t important?  Let’s let the first thing out of our mouths be, “I understand” or “I’m so sorry” or “What can I do to help?”

Thank you.

 

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Vlog Series: 20 Steps to Finding Joy in the Trials- Part 5

I pray you are finding blessings in my vlog series so far!  Here is part five of 20 Steps to Finding Joy in the Trials.  This one is a wee bit longer, but it is well worth the time.  Enjoy!

I’ll see ya next week with part six!  If you haven’t viewed the intro or any of parts 1-4, just go up to the Blog tab and scroll down to view any you missed.

 

Blessings!

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